Microsoft has announced a turn-around on its policy towards the somewhat controversial Kinect sensor, usually bundled with its next-gen Xbox One console. In what is likely a response to pressure from both consumers and the strong sales of Sony’s competing PlayStation 4 system, the company has today announced that it will sell its latest console without the Kinect sensor, lowering the price of entry to the system.
The company will start selling a version of the console that does not include the sensor on June 9 for US$399, bringing its price in line with that of the PS4. As you might expect, the sensor itself will then be sold separately for anyone who picks up the cheaper version of the system but wants to add the extra functionality afforded by the Kinect at a later date. There is currently no word on how much the Kinect will cost on its own, but we do know it will be released this fall (Northern Hemisphere).
Microsoft’s Xbox division has had a rocky year since it announced its next-gen console almost 12 months ago. Having already reversed its always-online and used game policies before launch, the company has faced an uphill struggle in convincing consumers that the Kinect sensor was an integral part of the new system, and one that warranted its higher cost over the slightly more powerful PlayStation 4.
Despite making the decision to sell the sensor separately, Microsoft isn't quite throwing in the towel yet, emphasizing that the version of the console that does include Kinect is superior to the new, cheaper offering, and provides more of the functionality that the company originally intended.
In our review of the console back in November, we found the Kinect sensor to be a useful, but imperfect addition to an otherwise enticing system. Whether or not its extra functionality is worth the higher price tag over the Kinect-less version of the console will likely come down to personal preference, and how you intend to use the system.
Microsoft made one other significant announcement today, and it's one that affects both Xbox One and Xbox 360 users. Until now, Xbox users who want to use their console to access entertainment apps such as YouTube, Netflix or Hulu, were required to have an active paid Xbox Live Gold membership. This always seemed a little unfair as many such services already require a paid subscription. However, from June onwards, users will be able to access the services whether they have a paid Xbox Live account or not – definitely a welcome change.