There\’s no other way to spin it. Whether the Xbox One is a competent game video game console or not, it will never be what it was planned to be, let alone what it could have been. As a purchaser, my trust has been violated. As a fan, my excitement just died a little.
Backing down on the future of digital, connected games was an annoyance, but one that could be improved over time. A lack of raw performance as compared to the competition can be smoothed-over with clever coding and smart visual choices. Killing a \’core\’ component of the experience six months into a generation… It\’s inexcusable.
It\’s a bad decision on so many levels. To any developer that has been working on a game that incorporates the Kinect, it forces you to reconsider a key component of development- do you stay true to your design, even in the face of a (now) fractured install base? To the internal teams working on projects that center on Kinect functionality, it must signal unrest and diminished commitment. To the early adopters that bought into the promise, it is a kick in the teeth.1 Not only did we pay more, but now we get the divided install base that virtually guarantees the Kinect will never be used for significant, core gameplay in an \’AAA\’ title. Further, what happens to the pace of updates and improvements for a non-core Kinect? Not to pile on, there\’s also the processing overhead reserved for Kinect- will that simply go unused, or will people without Kinect actually get better game performance?
Perhaps the ugliest part of this debacle is the business side. Xbox One, according to Microsoft, is selling at a 76% faster clip than the 360 through the same period of availability. Also, you can get a One with Titanfall bundled for $450 throughout the country. Assuming the new SKU is a non-Kinect system with no bundled software, consumers will save $50 in exchange for excising the $100 Kinect AND a $60 game. What a deal!2 So, even though the Xbox One is selling well, and you can get one within $50 of the PS4 with a bundled top-tier game, they decided to take an ax to a core component of the system. If they\’re not outselling the PS4 in June, expect them to look at versions with no disc drive, reduced RAM, and perhaps even one with no video outputs.
If MS really wants to \’make things right\’, they should have taken one for the team and dropped the price to $399. Or, perhaps, keep it at $499, but include a year of Xbox Live Gold and voucher for a free digital game. In the end, the console that wins the war is generally the one that hosts the most high-quality core gaming experiences.3 Removing the Kinect from the box doesn\’t help create any of those experiences. It also lessens the odds of compelling gameplay that can\’t be done on another, more powerful, box.
Microsoft has taken a step away from their vision for a cohesive, complimentary products-and-services line-up.