The most obvious positive coming from this news is that Xbox One is now $100 cheaper. The new $399 price point means the console race just became more competitive. The XB1 will be available for the same price as the PS4. Microsoft’s home console was off to a slow start in terms of sales, but a cheaper entry price will likely pick things up.
Goodbye to shoddy voice commands
My biggest complaint about the Kinect was its frustrating voice controls. The thing that made the console unique was also a huge annoyance. There are few things more rage enducing in this world than having to repeat yourself when talking a stupid machine. I won’t miss saying “Xbox, Unsnap” over and over.
The privacy fear is gone
A major XB1 concern when the console was first released was its privacy issues. People didn’t like the fact that a HD camera that had the ability to survey the user’s living room was constantly on when the system was on. This was such a concern that there are products on the market designed specifically to cover the Kinect’s lens. Removing the Kinect removes this concern completely.
People who didn’t want it don’t have to have it
Some XB1 users wondered why the Kinect was being forced onto them when they had no interest in ever hooking it up to the system. Now the Kinect is 100% optional. Users that want the Kinect as a part of their XB1 experience can still buy the $499 bundle. Those that don’t will opt for the $399 bundle. Choice is a wonderful thing.
Bad UI gets even worse
Part of the reason the Kinect was packaged with every XB1 was because the Kinect was an integral part of the system’s user interface. Users can get virtually anywhere within the system by just using voice commands. The act of snapping apps as a sidebar is achieved (semi) easily with the common “Xbox, snap” command. Voice commands were the only thing that made the system’s interface easy to navigate.
By removing the Kinect from the equation, Microsoft has a created a serious UI problem in the XB1. It was already clunky and confusing. Removing voice control makes this experience even worse. The XB1 needed a dashboard update on day one, but that update will be a must starting June 9.
TV integration just became worthless
Remember when Microsoft focused on TV integration during the console’s reveal? That seems like a lifetime ago with Kinect out of the picture. The best argument for hooking up a cable box to the XB1 was the ability to control the cable box with voice commands. Without Kinect, what’s the point of ever hooking up a cable box? I complained in my review of severe quality loss when running a cable box through the XB1 to the TV. Without voice commands, I see no benefit in using this XB1 feature.
What about Kinect games in development?
Starting June 9, the percentage of Xbox One users who have Kinect will begin to drop. So out of the few gamers who actually own an XB1, even less will have a Kinect. What’s the financial incentive to ever develop exclusively for the Kinect? The upcoming “Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved” by Harmonix is certainly in a pickle. The game was going to be made for all XB1 users. Now it will only be available for Xbox One owners who have Kinect.
Each year, the Kinect’s install percentage will drop while people continue to pick up the $399 SKU. The Kinect 2.0’s fate seems to be bound for the same as the original Kinect.
The wild card is gone
The Kinect wasn’t without its problems, but it separated the XB1 from the competition. It brought something to the table that only the XB1 was capable of. We could’ve been treated to new uses for the Kinect for the future years of the console. Now those new uses will just be “what ifs,” since software development for the camera will likely halt. What makes the XB1 different from the PS4 now? The console war just got a little more boring.
So what do you think? Was dropping the requirement for a Kinect a good move? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter, @GameGuyPgh!