With E3 2014 still weeks away, Microsoft took the first shot by announcing that they’ve created and are releasing a Kinect-less Xbox One starting on June 9th.
After vehemently stating that a Kinect-less Xbox One isn’t possible just as recently as this past February, Microsoft is finally giving consumers a choice as the new console comes in at $100 cheaper, matching Sony’s PS4 to level the playing field. Kinect will also be sold separately later this year for those who want to upgrade down the road as well.
Obviously, the standalone system will have less going for it as you won’t be able to broadcast using Twitch, voice commands, and some of the entertainment features won’t be available without Kinect. I’m not even sure how “Xbox Record That” will function. Hopefully they’ll figure that out because recording gameplay and editing it is a simple joy of the Xbox One. Don’t forget that you’ll be missing out on games like Project Spark and the upcoming Fantasia: Music Evolved from the talented folks at Harmonix. From a business standpoint, this is a major win for Microsoft. For Kinect and it’s future? Well, lets just say that this complicates things greatly.
While the standalone Xbox One was the big news, a couple of other pieces of information hit which you’ll be forgiven if you missed due to the big console news.
Xbox Apps No Longer Need Gold
As we all know, having Gold means you spend money to keep the subscription going. Certain entertainment apps like Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu. Other apps like Twitch needed Gold in order just to be used. To help level the playing field with Nintendo and Sony, Microsoft is also removing the need for Gold to use their apps.
Games With Gold Expanding
In a move designed to better compete with Sony and their PlayStation Plus program, Microsoft is bringing their “Games With Gold” program to the Xbox One starting in June. On the Xbox One, Halo: Spartan Assault and Max: Curse of Brotherhood will be available for free. On the Xbox 360 side, Dark Souls, Charlie Murder, and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. In a change of pace, all games will be available for as long as you’re gold member, similar to what Sony does with PS+. In addition to free monthly games, Gold Discounts will also be rolled out often, giving players price cuts and percentage off deals of games and add-ons for Gold members only.
Since all of this is scheduled to go live on June 9th, I can’t help but wonder what this announcement would have been like under the bright lights of Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference. Making the announcement and then revealing that you can but the new console right now. Certainly makes a strong statement especially when you compare what happened to them at last year’s show. A nice role reversal if you will. Still, if this news couldn’t fit into the presentation, it kind of makes you wonder what else they have up their sleeves, doesn’t it?
Say what you want about Microsoft but it’s really hard to argue about the job Phil Spencer has done in the short term that he’s taken over the Xbox team. He’s quickly gone to work fixing the mistakes of his predecessor, Don Mattrick, and has made the Xbox One a real viable choice and legitimate threat to Sony’s console lead. As consumers, when the console battle heats up, we all win. Bring on E3.