Today the Xbox One without Kinect has been announced, throwing massive numbers of gamers for a loop. Up until today, very few suspected that Microsoft would ever release their Xbox One game console without Kinect - today everything changes. Today the Kinect may or may not have just been doused in doubt.
Is Kinect over?
If you want it. Kinect for Xbox One has several titles making use of its abilities already, and according to Microsoft, 80% of Xbox One owners make use of Kinect regularly. If you’ll have a peek at our Kinect Sports Rivals Review you’ll see how in-depth Kinect is already, early on in its life with the Xbox One.
Above you’ll see our view of Kinect Champion Scan, part of Kinect Sports Rivals and one of the most impressive uses we’ve yet seen of Kinect in the home.
This game was developed, on the other hand, by Rare and distributed by Microsoft Studios. The game Fighter Within uses Kinect on Xbox One to allow you to "fight" your opponent - this game has, unfortunately, been rated extremely low for its less-than-enticing gameplay.
Zoo Tycoon is a relatively entertaining game, one we used as part of our original Xbox One review. This game implores you to use your hands and your arms to feed animals and place zoo exhibits. It’s more than a proof-of-concept, but not a whole lot more than a game made to pass the time whilst driving a golf cart.
Beyond this - and with the Kinect no longer being part of the basic Xbox One bundle, I can’t imagine there’ll be any MORE of a push for developers to adopt the peripheral than there was before. It’s an "if I didn’t before, why would I now" sort of situation.
What’s next for Xbox One bundles?
Not a whole lot more has been planned for Xbox One’s Kinect for the immediate future in the way of games. The fact that developer adoption of this system hasn’t taken off might have something to do with the dropping of Kinect from the basic build.
A much larger reason - or a more obvious reason - for the Xbox One without Kinect is the fact that the PlayStation 4 is out-selling the Xbox One. Dropping the Kinect means the Xbox One can be sold for $399 instead of $499.
Microsoft likely saw clearly the results of a price drop when the price-cut Titanfall bundle was sold earlier this year. If Microsoft bundles the Kinect again, it’ll be alongside games.
Imagine a new Kinect-dependent game’s developers working side-by-side with Microsoft Studios. The game is released at a price not much higher than the standard, and it includes a Kinect in the box. That’d be a value proposition that wouldn’t arrive for another year or so - most users already have the Kinect right this minute.
Xbox One Software
The Xbox One UI - the basic console’s software - makes use of Kinect implicitly. You can ask your Xbox One to open an app or game, to control your connected devices, and to turn off or on.
You don’t need to use Kinect to control your Xbox One, but once you start speaking, it’s difficult to stop. It’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft continues developing for the Kinect now that we’re back to a place where the Kinect isn’t bundled with the Xbox - the same situation we were in when the Kinect was first launched.
The Xbox One Kinect is not required for gameplay for most games - and it never was. Now we’ll see if the in-box requirement dropped means the software development stops.
Smart Home Kinect
Given the massive amount of development done around the Kinect for Windows - the non-console peripheral - it’s difficult to imagine Kinect development ending altogether. Based on what we saw earlier this year with Microsoft’s Michael Mott, general manager of Xbox applications and developer relations, Kinect is going to continue to be pushed by Microsoft in force.
There’s chat of making Kinect a full smart home controller. Imagine showing your Kinect camera the color of your drink, for example. Once Kinect sees you’ve got an affinity for green, it tells your Hue lighting scheme to turn cool.
Walking in on Kinect pointed at your front door could turn on the music on your home stereo - a hand gesture could tell your Kinect-connected system which album or style of music you’d like.
There’s simply too much that can be done with Kinect for Microsoft to abandon it altogether. There’s still so much work that needs to be done. Kinect isn’t dead - Microsoft’s push is just changing direction.