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Kinect-free Xbox One stinks of Microsoft desperation

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

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