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Microsoft Shouldn't Ditch The Xbox One Kinect

Feb 25 2014, 1:51pm CST | by

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Microsoft Shouldn't Ditch The Xbox One Kinect

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Microsoft Shouldn't Ditch The Xbox One Kinect

When the Xbox One was first announced, Microsoft wasn’t prepared for the consumer backlash.

Policies like locked-down used games sales and an online requirement had people up in arms, and not without reason.

The tech giant backtracked, removing the used games restrictions and the online requirement over the next few weeks. But on the price-tag—$499—and the motion and voice sensor Kinect, which comes bundled with each Xbox One, Microsoft remained firm.

As I noted earlier, Microsoft should stick to the price-tag, even if it means total sales will continue to lag behind the PS4. They should also stand by the bundled Kinect.

Some have suggested that ditching the Kinect would be the better way to trim the price of the video game console.

A Kinect-free Xbox One “Lite” could retail for closer to $425 without taking a loss, or Microsoft could match the PS4′s $399 price-tag and take a small loss (or find some way to lower the cost of manufacturing the unit as a whole to get the price below $400.)

I think this is a sensible idea, but also a wrongheaded one—not because I’m a huge fan of motion or voice controls in video games, but because the Kinect is the very thing that differentiates the Xbox One from the PS4—much like the touchscreen gamepad on Nintendo’s Wii U is what differentiates it from its rivals.

Of course, like the Wii U gamepad, the Kinect makes the Xbox One more expensive. And this early on, we haven’t yet seen many compelling reasons for its existence. The new media remote control will do much of what the Kinect can do via traditional button pressing rather than voice controls.

But I actually think the Kinect adds value to the Xbox One experience. I use it more than ever, and though I never thought I would, I find myself liking the new Kinect quite a bit.

The voice controls aren’t perfect, unfortunately, but they’re far superior to the Xbox 360—good enough that I use them all the time.

I turn on my Xbox One with the “Xbox On” command. I navigate through the UI with other voice commands, and pause/rewind/play my Netflix and other streaming shows via Kinect as well.

I also think the automatic sign-in function, vis-a-vis facial recognition, is pretty neat. And this is just the basic stuff. I suspect we’ll see more uses for the Kinect as the console ages.

The problem with ditching the Kinect and pricing the Xbox One the same as the $399 PS4 is that Microsoft would be left with the less powerful of two systems—with nothing extra to set it apart.

Furthermore, in the near-term we might see some new consumers picking up the Xbox One, but Microsoft would lose out in the long-term since that fragmentation would mean that some systems came equipped with Kinect while others didn’t, watering down the usefulness of the device and its appeal to potential developers.

It appears Microsoft is on a similar page. Microsoft United Kingdom marketing director Harvey Eagle told the BBC that Microsoft is “in it for the long haul” when it comes to Kinect. ”Kinect is absolutely integral to Xbox One,” he said.

“We are just a few months into a generation that’s going to last for many years to come. We see this therefore as a marathon,” Eagle added.

Speaking with Eurogamer, Eagle noted that a Kinect-less Xbox One “is not in our plans at all. As we’ve said from the very beginning, we believe Kinect is an absolutely integral part of the Xbox One experience.”

Even though I’m not a huge fan of Kinect as a gaming peripheral, Microsoft is right to stand by the Kinect.

Could it be a failed experiment in the long-run? Quite possibly. But we won’t know that if Microsoft fragments its console vision before the Xbox One has been given the breathing room to evolve.

The Xbox One trails the PS4 by a significant margin in worldwide sales, but we are only a few short months into the current video game console generation.

We could be in a very different place in a year or two, and Microsoft would be sending the wrong message by flip-flopping on a gadget that it’s described as so fundamental to the system.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.

Microsoft Reveals The Xbox One

Source: Forbes


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