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Microsoft ditches always-on Kinect requirement for Xbox One in latest policy reversal

Xbox One owners will no longer need to plug in the new Kinect motion and voice-sensing peripheral in order to use the console, Microsoft has today revealed.

In the latest in a long line of policy reversals, the chief product officer for Xbox One, Marc Whitten, told IGN Kinect can be unplugged or switched off completely in the console’s settings without affecting the console’s ability to function.

Previously, the company had controversially made Kinect a mandatory aspect of the Xbox One experience, refusing to sell the device without the accessory.

The always-listening aspect of the peripheral, which allows gamers to switch on the device just by saying ‘Xbox On’ had also raised privacy fears about the potential to spy on families in their living rooms. However, anyone worried about what Kinect might be seeing or hearing during more private moments can now choose not to use the peripheral.

Whitten said: “Games use Kinect in a variety of amazing ways from adding voice to control your squad mates to adding lean and other simple controls beyond the controller to full immersive gameplay. That said, like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.”

When asked How “off” Kinect can be when the system is in use, Whitten added: “You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode.

“You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue.”

So, there goes another unpopular Xbox One feature, Microsoft had been excited to share with the world.

The latest ‘Xbox 180,’ as these moments have playfully become known in gaming circles, follows similar climbdowns over the requirements for once-a-day internet check ins and DRM for second hand games.

The company also made the console region free in response to Sony’s plans to ditch country-to-country restrictions for the PS4. Last month, Microsoft also revealed it would be allowing developers to self-publish their titles on Xbox Live, signalling a big change from its previous position.

In light of today’s news, Microsoft is yet to announce it’ll sell the console without the Kinect peripheral, allowing it to match Sony’s cheaper price-tag, but in light of recent events we certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

Stay tuned…

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