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Kinect-free Xbox One stinks of Microsoft desperation

Andrew Williams


Xbox One
Xbox One

The Xbox One: Kinect Divorce

Microsoft has confirmed it is going to sell a version of the Xbox One without Kinect, the motion sensor that was sold as a key part of the system. For a while before launch Microsoft wasn’t going to let you even turn the console on without it.

This is just the latest in a string of back-tracking Xbox One moves, but this one in particular is a sign that Microsoft is desperate to claw back some ground in the console war against the PS4. A war that it is categorically losing at present.

What’s Microsoft’s excuse?

In a rather lame duck announcement, the Xbox team is already trying to distance itself from the decision to sell a Kinect-less Xbox. "This decision wasn't made by ourselves," head of Xbox strategy Yusuf Mehdi said to the BBC, suggesting instead that Microsoft is simply responding to pressure from partners and Xbox fans.

Why so embarrassed about the move? It’s a direct backtrack from what Xbox exec Phil Harrison said last year.

"Xbox One is Kinect. They are not separate systems," Harrison told CVG in August 2013. "An Xbox One has chips, it has memory, it has Blu-ray, it has Kinect, it has a controller. These are all part of the platform ecosystem."

Microsoft has had to step down. It is yet to adopt a humble tone, but team Xbox can’t be far off admitting failure to an extent.

As usual, it’s all about sales. The PS4 is currently massively outselling the Xbox One. It is winning the latest round of console sales, which some say will be the last traditional consoles we see.

In April, it was revealed that the PS4 had sold seven million units to the Xbox One’s three million. Much more worrying, the PS4 reportedly outsold the Xbox One by a ratio of 7:1 during one week in March.

It’s hard to paint a pretty picture with such a palette.

This sort of outlook is why we saw such price gouging of the Xbox One Titanfall bundle last month. It was widely available for £349.99 in the UK, and that included the Kinect sensor.

By Xbox One launch standard, that’s a package worth around £480, well over a hundred pounds more. And let’s not forget, the Xbox One is not even a year old.

The Titanfall effect has not been pronounced enough to help the Xbox One gain any ground, either. Portrayed by some as the ‘Halo’ of the current generation – a system seller that sets the Xbox One apart from rivals – it failed to make the Xbox One massively outsell the PS4 at the game’s launch. In the week ending 16 March, the normal Xbox One sold 12,000 units in Europe, the PS4 80,000. Even with the Titanfall bundle considered too, the Xbox one only beat the PS4 by 40 per cent with 112,000 sales.

It makes disappointing reading for Xbox fans, and we’ve seen a similarly muted response from readers. I’ve read handfuls of comments showing regret at buying an Xbox One for what comes across as a ‘last-gen’ game.

None of Microsoft’s Xbox One tactics intended to turn sales around seem to be working. And in reaction we see the company strip back all the strong, largely ego-driven strategies set in place before the console’s launch.

First there was the DRM, then the Xbox One’s elevated price. Now we see Kinect uncoupled from the console and there are even reports that streaming services will no longer require Xbox Live Gold to access – a policy that seems thoroughly antiquated now that virtually everything can access Netflix.

Humble Pie Squared

All the moves Microsoft is making are probably the right ones. But the problem is that it still seems to be unwilling to admit that it has made a series of serious mistakes in the way it has positioned the Xbox One.

And that’s a problem.

The Xbox brand used to have masses of kudos among the console gaming crowd. But all that seems to have ebbed away. Gamers have lost faith in Xbox, and the PS4 has proved an all-too-suitable place for them to find a new home,

Microsoft needs to admit its mistakes if it wants to win them back. And for all its moves that suggest it has been taken down a peg or two, we don’t seem any closer to an admission that the Xbox One has let its long-standing fans down.

Next, read our Xbox One vs PS4 comparison


May 13, 2014, 5:12 pm

I wouldn't call listening to feedback desperation. Just giving people what they want


May 13, 2014, 5:30 pm

This is a very negative angle to take. I agree with David it is just listening to feedback which they also did last year following E3. I agree Microsoft have made some mistakes and are in danger of loosing the goodwill created by the last two generations of xbox. But asking them to apologise and fall on their sword is just childish. I expect better from Trusted Reviews


May 13, 2014, 6:37 pm

Less you forget what they said.

Xbox One is Kinect. They are not separate systems. An Xbox One has chips, it has memory, it has Blu-ray, it has Kinect, it has a controller. These are all part of the platform ecosystem.- Phil Harrison


May 13, 2014, 7:01 pm

I agree with that. I think it's dumb people are complaining about it. But if people want it give it to em.


May 13, 2014, 7:11 pm


Your source says:

Rest of Europe / PAL:
PS4 - 80,000 units ( Hardware sales increased 200% over the week ending March 9th, 2014)
Xbox One - 12,000 units
Titanfall Xbox One - ~100,000 units
Surely this means the Xbox One sold 112,000 units in total, compared to PS4 80,000? And not 7:1, and 12,000 to 80,000 as your article states...


May 13, 2014, 7:36 pm

Good news. Now we just need MS to ditch the eSRAM and upgrade the ram into GDDR5 and set price not too high after.
Oh wait, there's another console for that already......


May 13, 2014, 7:51 pm

If you follow the link given for the sales figures, it actually says:

Rest of Europe / PAL:
PS4 - 80,000 units ( Hardware sales increased 200% over the week ending March 9th, 2014)
Xbox One - 12,000 units
Titanfall Xbox One - ~100,000 units
Surely this means the Xbox One sold 112,000 units, and not the 12,000 stated in the article?


May 13, 2014, 9:03 pm

I agree, do what sells consoles. Problem is Microsoft disregarded many users desires in the beginning, they are releasing this through lack of sales and so are making a move many of us could consider desperate.


May 13, 2014, 10:44 pm

"I agree with David it is just listening to feedback which they also did last year following E3."

Problem is that there was no reason for them to wait until now to recognize this feedback. Since well before the Xbox One was announced in May last year, anyone familiar with console gaming culture could have told you that DRM and Kinnect were unpopular, but Microsoft went ahead and launched on that platform anyway. The feedback had been there for ages, but they ignored it to launch with a vision they must have known would be unpopular with gamers.

I can only assume they hoped a mixture of brand loyalty and capturing new casual users would carry them through. Unfortunately, the PS4's core gaming prowess lured the hardcore and its lower price swayed the casuals. I bet Microsoft didn't see that coming.

So only now, in the face of challenging sales comparisons, have they been forced to confront the feedback that had always been there. It's sad, because the Xbox One would surely be in a better position today had they listened to gamers while they were designing it instead of designing it in a vacuum and only opening their eyes and ears after launching the damn thing.


May 13, 2014, 11:20 pm

I see what you're saying. I didn't feel like they disregarded us, people just didn't like the direction they were going in. But honestly I feel from won't be optional in the future. And the original plans got the Xone had a lot of great features. But hey, what can you do

Paul Josephson

May 13, 2014, 11:49 pm

This all about selling in China (and other smaller regions) and nothing more. It is definitely not about listening to consumers in the US or EU. It is about cost and availability. Since the Kinect requires a great deal of work to get regional specific the quickest way to catch up to the regional count PS4 is in 50+ regions vs X1 in what 13+ regions is to toss aside the Kinect requirement. Leaving out the US and other regions for the Kinect is byproduct (imagine the anger if other regions could have it and the US did not have that option).
Am I happy, no. I want them to build on the experience of the Kinect. I want pure Kinect games but will just have to settle with this being less likely. Perhaps we will see certain games adding little specific motions that are available if a the Kinect is attached but the dedicated games are becoming less likely now. As business decision it can be bring added sales but also can be fraught with issues (now creating fragmentation) and a trust issue of investing in something that even Microsoft now seems to backtrack on. As a consumer why should I invest more in something from Microsoft, if Microsoft itself has less dedication to and this holds for anything new from Microsoft. Microsoft has backtracked on too much on the X1, first with the friend sharing option and now Kinect as be all in controlling this experience.

Tim Sutton

May 14, 2014, 12:10 am

Gosh, who saw this coming. Everyone? Oh.

Now if Nintendo would see sense and lose the gamepad then.... actually, it wouldn't matter.

None of the consoles are particularly exciting.

There's just nothing to get worked up about when they are all comprehensively outperformed by a low end gaming PC, which also has cheaper games and free online gaming.

Kinnect is at least something the One has that adds to its usage scenarios. I like the idea of having a voice and motion controlled media hub, but actually my new smart TV has voice and motion controls too.. really, if you have the small amount of money needed for a gaming PC then consoles just aren't very relevant anymore.

Ray Stantz

May 14, 2014, 3:36 am

DRM they never implemented so they listened there, the Kinect sold 24 million units by 2013 and had the record for fastest selling electronics device, Yea it was "unpopular" alright. Your assumptions are flawed.

Ray Stantz

May 14, 2014, 3:40 am

Biased much Andy??? Here is a better look into why http://www.engadget.com/201...


May 14, 2014, 5:26 am

"Your assumptions are flawed."

I don't think so.

The evidence was there before the Xbox One was announced that gamers did not want always-online DRM, but they announced with it anyway. They only claimed to "listen" afterwards when they were getting killed in the press.

The first Kinnect was a special case. People were excited for its potential, so of course lots of people bought it, but again the evidence was abundant that lots of people who bought one were disappointed with the experience and had no intention of buying it again. Microsoft had no evidence that the Kinnect with Xbox One would be as popular as the first Kinnect, without that rush of optimism in its potential.

Microsoft has eventually made some right decisions, but the fact remains that it could have made those right decisions earlier, and early enough for it to have made a difference to sales, had they been willing to "listen" during the design stage and not only after announcing controversial features and waiting to see whether people would swallow them.


May 14, 2014, 5:53 am

Microsoft wanted to launch a money milking console, almost got away with but now that people see PS4 has everything and more for cheaper, Microsoft is crying wahhh wahh wahhhh now we gotta remove this and that, atleast now people can buy an xbone without a spy kinect, I wonder how microsoft talked the U,S, government outta the NSA contract that was signed u.s. government was subsidizing the kinect, because to make the kinect was soo expensive there was no way ms could sell it for 100, so part of the agreement was NSA had direct camera and mic access >_> in return u.s. government would pay for part of the camera, ( just a theory ) and if you have one better tell us how ms made kinect so cheap ?.


May 14, 2014, 5:54 am

There is some loss of face, sure, but I think bundling Kinect in the initial release was a great idea.

Now probably at least two thirds of all Xbone users will have it, making it seriously viable for developers.

And then MS release to other markets, without the Kinect, and Xbone will power ahead in sales.

This war seems more like a race, with Xbox as the turtle to the PS4 hare.

The recent changes clearly seem to point to a cheap set top box from Microsoft soon.

Matthew Bunton

May 14, 2014, 9:54 am

All of this is about Microsoft realising that they got pretty much everything wrong for this next generation of consoles and are desperately trying to salvage what they can.

However I am a little tired of hearing how Sony is for the gamer etc.utter rubbish. They saw the back lash that MS got and reacted accordingly.

I think that all of this generations consoles are very underwhelming. Gone are the days of powerful consoles, hell I expect that tablets will be beating these things within the next 5 years.


May 14, 2014, 12:09 pm

In the article you linked to MS say the move is not to boost sales, BUT they say the move is to get it into more peoples hands....... how do consoles get into peoples hands without being sold??


May 14, 2014, 12:21 pm

Where in the article does it say "the move is to get it into more peoples hands" ?
This is a quote from the comments section of the article, but not the article itself.
Apologies if I've missed it?
The move was to apparently made to allow 360 owners upgrade to a more affordable price range.... not to compete better against the PS4 according to MS.


May 14, 2014, 1:12 pm

Yep, can't guess which camp you are in. Funnily, I can't remember a generation of consoles where one console was selling far better than the other at the start but ended up selling less.

And if you think bundling the Kinect was a great idea, how is this move a good thing?


May 14, 2014, 1:23 pm

It's rather unfair to judge the current generation based on the difference between previous generations. When consoles proclaimed 16/32-bit colours, games on new consoles had a very large and obvious difference. When what was on screen was so blocky, any improvement was obvious. The main differences coming through now are environmental - destructable environments, realistic grass/trees, the number of items/models on screen.

The problem is that games strive to recreate real life - to suck you in and make you believe you are there. The closer they get to this, the less obvious the changes will be. They might double the number of polygons (simplisitic example) for models in game, but when the models already looked realistic, this will only produce a slight improvement in what you notice.
Gone are the days of being bowled over by every new game and how they look.


May 14, 2014, 2:26 pm

Uhhhhh.... it happened in the last generation.... Xbox 360 beat the PS3 intially. Now PS3 has over taken Xbox 360.


May 14, 2014, 2:52 pm

TR... not one for constructive criticism??


May 14, 2014, 2:52 pm

On the news:
Shame for current XBox owners... I think the idea to bundle was well intentioned, I would genuinely love to play a "good" Kinnect game, but now developers won't have the same incentive to utilise the tech.

On the Writer:
To quote to Kill a Mockingbird "...to delete the adjectives ... I'd have the facts": Sorry AW, I realise this is yours/Trusted Reviews "Opinion" - but it sounds more like fanboy schoolyard banter, not what I usually expect from TR.


I have PS4, XOne, WiiU & PC but I do understand some of your frustration with MS, we do deserve a bit better.

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