After several months of the current-gen consoles now being with us, Microsoft has again altered its strategy of how to distribute as many Xbox Ones as possible to the world at large. Last time, it was to withdraw the requirement to have the console require an always-online connection (a concept I believe should only be reserved for MMOs and similar genres), followed shortly after having the console itself work without the Kinect plugged in.
Now the strategy is to start selling the console without the Kinect entirely (along with a generous price cut)–a move that could be very beneficial to Microsoft and the Xbox One itself.
The announcement came about last week via Xbox Wire , where Microsoft’s newly promoted head of Xbox Phil Spencer detailed that the Xbox One will be receiving a $100 price cut as a result of removing the Kinect peripheral from the console’s package–a second variant of the Xbox One that’ll be made available on Monday, June 9.
With this announcement, there will now be two variants of the Xbox One console: one with the Kinect, and the other without–for $499 and $399 respectively (or your regional equivalent).
Surprisingly, Spencer didn’t stop there–he went on to reveal a bunch of other goodies regarding the Xbox One and Xbox 360 users, specifically concerning Xbox Live and its entertainment apps.
Also in early June, both Xbox One and Xbox 360 users will be able to access the entertainment apps of each console for free, meaning that you’ll be able to use them without the requirement of an Xbox Live Gold membership . Which, considering the competition, should have been a move made right off the bat back in 2013–why should you have to spend more than what is necessary (i.e. an Xbox Live Gold membership on top of your internet bill)?
Entertainment apps like Machinima, Twitch, Skype, HBO GO, NFL, Netflix, Hulu and a lot more (about 170 global entertainment apps for the Xbox 360 and a growing catalog for the Xbox One) will be accessible at no extra cost this coming June, which is a little more than a few weeks away now.
The caveat is that some apps may still require provider-specific subscriptions and/or additional requirements; Netflix, Hulu, NFL, ESPN, NBA, and NHL are used as examples for the caveat in the announcement. GoPro and HBO GO are also currently available only on the Xbox 360, with Xbox One versions coming soon. Some apps may also be exclusive to one console and may also still require provider-specific subscriptions.
Of those 170 gaming and entertainment apps, here are some of what will be made available to you, with consoles included where applicable. Please note that this list is not conclusive. Other caveats may or may not still be required.
Netflix (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Hulu Plus (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Vevo (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Amazon Instant Video (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Crackle (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Redbox Instant (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
iHeartRadio (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
FOX NOW (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Vudu (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Xbox Video (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Xbox Music (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
YouTube (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Internet Explorer (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Twitch.tv (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Machinima (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
OneDrive (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Univision Deportes (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
NBA Game Time (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
MLB.tv (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
UFC (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
FXNOW (Xbox One)
The CW (Xbox One)
Upload Studio (Xbox One)
NFL (Xbox One)
One Guide (Xbox One)
Skype (Xbox One)
HBO GO ( Xbox 360)
GoPro (Xbox 360)
Red Bull TV ( Xbox 360)
IGN (Xbox 360)
MLG (Xbox 360)
ESPN (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
NHL Game Center (Xbox 360)
Quite a generous move on Spencer’s part, since as of early June you’ll only have to pay for your electricity/internet bill (and provider-based subscriptions where applicable) instead of paying for Xbox Live on top of that just to watch a couple of movies and the odd episodic series, and to chat with your friends. You’ll still have to pay for Xbox Live to go into multiplayer of course.
One that note, despite most of the Xbox Live Gold requirements being dropped, Spencer confirmed that you’ll still need membership to play MMOs and free-to-play titles , explaining that Microsoft wasn’t able to drop the membership requirement due to complications such as ” engineering constraints, policy constraints, and partnership constraints in each one of these scenarios. ” Games that are affected by this include Happy Wars , World of Tanks and The Elder Scrolls Online .
While there will now be perks to not purchasing Xbox Live membership, there’s also an additional perk to continually being an Xbox Live Gold member. In the announcement on Xbox Wire, Spencer also revealed that Xbox One users will finally be receiving Games with Gold , a service of generosity that was once only for the Xbox 360. Incidentally, the service will also be arriving on Xbox One in early June.
However, even with a Kinect-less variant of the console itself, some games that appear on Games with Gold later down the line for the Xbox One may still require the Kinect and/or a hard drive in order to be played.
Like on the Xbox 360, you’ll soon be receiving monthly offerings of two titles ranging from triple-A titles to indies for your Xbox One. The games that’ll be offered in June are Max: The Curse of Brotherhood , a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer, and Halo: Spartan Assault , a top-down shooter spin-off that’s set with the Halo universe–specifically between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4 .
Also starting in June, both Xbox 360 and Xbox One users who have Xbox Live Gold will be receiving significant monthly discounts from to 50 up to 70 percent off across a multitude of titles, and–as an added feature–Xbox One users will have a virtual VIP room that’ll feature free games, monthly deals and other gifts. As it currently stands, Forza Motorsport 5 , Ryze: Son of Rome and a number of other surprises will be discounted in June.
While that’s all fine and dandy, early adopters of the Xbox One will not be receiving refunds from Microsoft for their purchases following the console’s price cut with the Kinect-less variant. So, if you bought your Xbox One anytime within the past few months, you will not be compensated for the $100 drop .
It’s understandable that people who had to buy the console for $100 more just because the package included a peripheral they may not have necessarily wanted would be miffed, as the price drop and the removal of the Kinect may be perceived as a little bit more than a financial fish-slap across the face.
Except, on the flip side, looking at it from both angles, the difference isn’t all that big a deal. This situation isn’t like when Nintendo lowered the price of the 3DS back in 2011 by a hefty amount, and gave the early adopters a bunch of free games as compensation, because back then there was only one variant of the 3DS, so there was only one model in the package–no peripherals, no extras (other than the ones being sold separately).
In this situation, there are two variants of the same model, meaning one comes with a peripheral as part of the package and the other does not. So, early adopters who bought the console either at or after launch will have bought the variant with the Kinect, and adopters after June may choose to purchase an Xbox one without the peripheral. The only difference here is pricing.
Had it been different, where the console was a singular model with no peripherals at all, that was later reduced in price with no compensation, then I would understand the outcry a lot more. As we’re talking about two different variants here, all I can think is, “well, you bought one with a Kinect, thus $100 more. Others may now want to buy one without a Kinect, thus $100 less. That’s cool.”
Of course, that’s under the assumption that the Kinect will be sold separately for $100, thus balancing out the difference. Incidentally, there will be a standalone version of the Kinect being released this Fall, but no pricing information has been revealed on that as of yet. If the standalone version sells for less, then I’d empathize with the early adopters’ outcry more.
Moving on of course–with the Kinect being dropped from the Xbox One, Microsoft is currently in talks with other developers and publishers about squeezing out more juice with the Xbox One now that a portion of its performance won’t be dedicated to the Kinect. With the removal of additional CPU stress brought on by the peripheral, it’s thought that games will now be able to perform better on the console since its CPU will be able to focus more on the games that are being played instead of dueling processes with the game and its respectively possible Kinect features and mechanics.
Even analysts are seeing Microsoft’s move to bring out a Kinect-less version as a positive decision, as they optimistically believe that the introduction of the second variant will help increase sales of the Xbox One in North America by a fair bit, so much so that they claim that it’ll surpass the PS4 (in terms of sales) by 2015 .
With all that’s been said and announced, I kind of feel like Microsoft is trying to win us over again (I say “again” because it made a start by removing the console’s always-online connection bollocks)–like it’s getting a little bit desperate to sell as many Xbox One consoles as possible and to push its vision of Kinect as hard as it can. I mean, Sony’s PlayStation 4 is miles ahead of the Xbox One in terms of sales and popularity, so it’s kind of like Microsoft’s going, “aw, shiz, guys–we need to sell more consoles and quick! What do gamers want? Xbox One without the Kinect? But that’s part of our vision! Ah, drat–give ‘em what they want…”
My question about this whole thing is whether or not people will actually buy the Kinect-included variant now that there’s a version without the peripheral. Sure, the Kinect-less Xbox One will sell much more consoles (that’s a guarantee), but will those who bought it even bother to upgrade by buying the standalone Kinect when it comes out?
I don’t really think so, and I think it’s because there’s still stigma for the first Kinect with the Xbox 360 floating around, which has been transferred to the Xbox One’s Kinect. It could also be that there just isn’t a title that can truly spearhead the Kinect into success at this time, other than those players who use it for dance games and those games that are specifically designed for the Kinect with actual gameplay in mind rather than just as a latched-on gimmick. It could also be due to the Kinect just being underutilized as a peripheral in general, something a couple of developers have already voiced about .
Who’s to say that there won’t be that one killer title that catapults the Kinect into popularity? It’s bound to happen at some point, surely. Until that happens, it’s my personal opinion that people won’t bother to buy a Kinect-included Xbox One or upgrade with a standalone Kinect due to the Kinect-less Xbox One’s reduced price (which is still damn pricey). On the plus side, for those who actually want to upgrade to include a Kinect with their Xbox One, at least they’ll have the option to later down the line.
That being said, I like that Microsoft is actually making the effort (again) to shift its vision in favor of the consumer, and I do like how it has life the Xbox Live Gold requirements on most of its services and entertainment apps–it’s always good to not spend as much as you need to and still get the same stuff. I hope the company continues on like this in the coming years.
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