Microsoft’s recent announcement of the Kinect no longer being required to make the Xbox One work is the latest in an unprecedented series of flip-flopping before the console’s release. On one hand, it’s great that they’re proactively addressing many of the issues that more discerning consumers have with the platform. However, this sequence of events also highlights how off-base the original vision for the console was while giving me cause for concern going forward.
This sentiment is especially apparent when contrasted with Sony’s actions in the same time frame. Having made a ton of mistakes with the PlayStation 3, virtually everything about the new system shows that Sony has learned its lesson. While they’re sitting pretty, Microsoft is scrambling late in the pre-launch cycle to put out all of the PR fires they caused months ago.
Could this have been avoided? Maybe. They’re messaging to the press definitely could have been better and more consistent. However, as someone who admittedly knows nothing about console development, I felt that the Xbox One reeked of hubris. After the success of the Xbox 360, they basically unveiled the Homer Simpson car of gaming consoles; a self-serving device that completely misses the boat on what consumers actually want from a gaming console.
Though it’s generally a good thing that they’re addressing many of these issues now, they’re latest move is a double-edged sword. As someone who hates the Kinect on Xbox 360, I hated the thought of it being mandatory for the Xbox One to work. Removing that requirement is a great step forward for me, but the peripheral will still be bundled with all consoles, making it still $100 more expensive than Sony’s offering. I have no interest in spending the extra money on a peripheral I may never take out of the plastic.
From their perspective, I think this move undermines their entire vision for Kinect as an important piece of the Xbox ecosystem. By gutting that requirement, it’s almost guaranteed now that the Kinect will simply be a gimmick yet again.
All that said, there are still other points of concern for the platform. Almost everything cool that the Xbox One provides in terms of services is locked behind the Xbox Live Gold pay wall. The console only auto-records the last 5 minutes of gameplay; a limitation that the PlayStation 4 doesn’t suffer from. Most importantly, the console is still $500; $100 more than its biggest rival. At this point, I’ve lost a lot of trust in Microsoft and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were even more skeletons in the closet that we just don’t know about yet. Based on recent events, I guess I shouldn’t worry, since they’ll just backtrack on all of those, too.