I wanted to give my take on yesterday’s big news regarding the future of Xbox. I’ll break this down piece by piece.
1) Xbox One will now be sold without a Kinect as a secondary choice to the Premium bundle that includes Kinect
I think this was a mistake on Microsoft’s part. One of my hesitations with buying the Xbox one was the Kinect support. I bought it for Xbox 360 and felt slighted when all of the games were mediocre with the exception of the Dance Central series. By selling it as an accessory, developers are less likely to make a game either focusing on Kinect’s capabilities (Dance Central) or including extra features (voice control in Skyrim) because only the people who have the device can use it. Another negative was releasing it so late in the 360’s life-cycle. Why should people buy this device when the console is near end of life? Microsoft tried to fix this by bundling the new Kinect with Xbox One as mandatory. Developers now were guaranteed that everyone who owned an Xbox One would have a Kinect. With this new direction, they’ve essentially doomed the Kinect. Yes voice commands are great and add to the experience but you’ve now split the vision into two paths, one with Kinect and one without at the expense of sales. I understand why they did it. With lagging sales behind the PS4 they felt like they had to do something to catch up. By dropping the mandatory Kinect, they’ve dropped the price $100 and it’s now the same $399 as the PS4. Let’s be honest, parents buying these consoles for their kids who know nothing about specs buy it based on price. That’s it.
2) Games with Gold moves to PS+ type model
Before if you had Xbox Live you got two free games every month, a retail game and an arcade game that was free to keep forever, even if you cancelled your Gold subscription. Now they plan to release multiple games each month for free but if you cancel your sub, you lose access to the games. From what I’ve read this only applies to the Xbox One not the 360. I think this is a great idea. Xbox without an Xbox Live Gold subscription really diminishes the full features and use of the console. Most everyone has it who owns an Xbox and this gives us more value for our money. It’s a blatant copy of PlayStation Plus but I think it’s a welcomed change.
3) Deals with Gold
Finally. Microsoft is going to heavily discount digital games on Xbox. One conscious decision I’ve made with my Xbox One is to try and stay digital with regards to how I purchase my games. If I’m buying a game on release day I’m paying the same price whether I go with a physical disc or the digital download. The major drawback to this is months after release the physical copies have dropped signifcantly in price but digital prices remain at $60. I’ve been wanting to play Ryse and Forza Motorsport 5 for a long time but refuse to pay full price for them. Microsoft has said they plan to discount 50-75% off the retail price of games.
4) Moving apps from behind the pay-wall
This was a long time coming. PlayStation has always had it where you could use Netflix and other apps without having a PlayStation Plus subscription. The Xbox required you to have a Gold membership to use Netflix/Hulu and other entertainment apps. Many people hated this because why should I have to pay for a Netflix sub and then pay for an Xbox Gold sub just to use Netflix on the Xbox? This is another strategy copied from Sony but I think it opens the door to more people potentially buying an Xbox as an entertainment device.
All of these changes start on June 9th ,which also happens to be Microsoft’s press conference at E3. I like most of the changes they’ve made but I feel like they’ve thrown in the towel on the Kinect at the expense of short term sales numbers. One of the reasons I went Xbox over PlayStation is I felt like it was truly “next-gen” with the new Kinect integration. Now it feels like they’ve taken a step backwards. Microsoft, PLEASE don’t make me regret buying a Kinect. Again. Here’s to hoping that developers don’t give up on it either or use it as an afterthought.