August 14, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Oh boy, it's been an interesting couple of days in gaming land. First Microsoft's Marc Whitten (Chief Xbox One Platform Architect) mentioned on IGN that the Xbox One doesn't require Kinect in order to function.
That's a change from the story most of us have been hearing for the past few months, and one that is proving to be somewhat controversial. Gamers seem to be breaking down into two camps. On one side are the people who see this change as a good thing: they say Microsoft is listening to consumer demands and changing their plans accordingly. (A vocal number of gamers had concerns about being forced to use Kinect for various reasons, including privacy concerns over having an always-on camera in the living room.)
The other camp thinks that Microsoft is just changing too much too quickly at this point. I'm in this camp, and I think the constant changes from what was introduced in late May and early June are starting to make Microsoft seem a bit confused and unfocused. I can't imagine what it feels like to be a developer trying to finish a game in time for launch and having the details of the platform constantly shifting as you do so.
Ironically I was opposed to the Kinect requirement so I should be happy that they've reversed this policy. I think I might even be happy if Microsoft was offering an Xbox One SKU without a Kinect and for $50 or $100 less, but so far they aren't. So we're being asked to pay for a Kinect 2 sensor that isn't required. If it's not required it means that developers could be less likely to support it.
I'm not even sure that will be an issue, but I just feel like my confidence in Microsoft has been shaken at this point. It's easy to jump to conclusions when you're a consumer on the outside, looking in. How many of these changes are the result of former Microsoft President of the Interactive Entertainment Businesss Don Mattrick leaving the company shortly after the Xbox One reveal? Was Mattrick holding everyone to a vision that only he believed in? And now that he's gone the team can change things to be more in line with how they think the system should work? Or is this really Microsoft reacting to angry online consumers? And if that's the case, is it an indication that pre-order numbers aren't where Microsoft wants them?
I have lots of questions but darned few answers at this point.
Next week is Gamescom in Germany and both Microsoft and Sony will have another high profile event to talk about their platforms. Hopefully we'll get the final word on what Microsoft plans to ship in 3 months and they'll stop changing things around.
Speaking of Sony, there's a rumor going around that Sony will launch the Playstation 4 on October 21st. This rumor comes form Neo-Gaf and the source is 'mod-verified' (which means that the source has been verified to at least be in a position to know what he or she is talking about). Maybe we'll know for sure next week when Sony speaks at Gamescom.
[Update: 8/20/2013 - Sadly, the rumor was wrong. The actual launch date is November 15 in North America, November 29th in Europe. I'm bummed!]
And if you're not ready to upgrade to a next gen system, how about a $200 PS3 with 12 GB of flash-storage? This unit has been available in Europe and Hong Kong for a while, but yesterday it appeared, briefly, on Future Shop's (a Canadian retailer) site. According to a leak shared at Engadget it'll be available at KMart (and presumably other retailers) here in the US as of August 18th (and we can assume it'll return to Future Shop on that date, too). This is not the Playstation 3 you want if you love downloading games from PSN, but if you're primarily a Blu-Ray gamer or you want a 2nd PS3 for some light gaming and to stream Netflix and other services, this unit might be a good fit.
And now back to Microsoft for one last thing. Here's a video that shows you more than you ever wanted to know about the Xbox One controller.
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.