May 14, 2014, 6:23 AM —
As a blogger, sometimes the egg on your face gets so thick you just have to acknowledge it and try to move forward. That's what I get to do today. Just yesterday morning I said not to expect any Xbox One news out of Microsoft this close to E3; that they'd be waiting for their press conference to make any big announcements.
Mere hours after I posted that, Microsoft dropped a cluster bomb of announcements. Another indication that E3 is losing it's relevance? Maybe. An indication that I'm terrible at predicting the future? Definitely.
Anyway the biggest news was that, after telling us over and over again that Kinect 2 was an essential part of the Xbox One experience, Microsoft has completely changed its tune and will start selling the Xbox One without Kinect for $399. The new SKU arrives June 9th.
Essentially this kills off Kinect as a product. In fact if you chose to buy the $400 Xbox One and change your mind, you won't even be able to buy a stand-alone Kinect until later this fall. Going forward, we can expect Kinect 2 to have the same kind of support Kinect 1 had; in other words little to none.
It's a smart move for Microsoft even though I'm sure it will annoy some early adopters. Personally I use voice commands with the Xbox One pretty often (for watching video, not playing games) so I'm honestly glad Microsoft 'forced' me to try Kinect. At the same time I never use the camera features or motion controls at all. Maybe Microsoft will roll out a room-encompassing microphone to support voice commands and just let gesture controls die.
But the reality is the company had to do something to try to achieve parity with Sony's Playstation 4, which has been outselling the Xbox One every month since launch. Now it just needs some games.
And speaking of which, Microsoft is also beefing up its Games for Gold program in June, bringing it more in line with Sony's Playstation Plus program. The program will now encompass the Xbox One, with two free Xbox One games (Halo Spartan Assualt and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood) coming the first month, plus discounts of 50-75% on select games each month.
And lastly, you'll no longer need to have an Xbox Live Gold account to access subscription based services like Netflix and HBO Go; no more paying to use these services twice. Instead of using a stick (an enforced 2nd paywall), Microsoft is now using a carrot (free games) to get us to sign up for Xbox Live Gold. (Plus of course Gold is required for online multiplayer gaming.)
I don't think there's going to be much controversy around giving Xbox One owners free games and discounts, or removing the Gold requirement for Netflix, but what about the Kinect change? A smart move, or is Microsoft giving up on Kinect too early? Leave a comment and share your views!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.