Microsoft Drops Xbox One's Always Kinected Requirement

Microsoft has made an art out of reversing course on everything people thought the Xbox One was going to do (largely for smart reasons), but up till today, the company has been firm on two points. You will be buying a Kinect at launch, though you could turn off its voice-activation feature, and it would be required for any gaming or console use.

One of those points has just collapsed. Specifically, the "You must use Kinect for gaming" point. Now, you'll be able to deactivate Kinect and stuff it in your closet. Supplemental game functions won't work without it, obviously, but there's no reason to leave it hooked up if you don't care about those functions and don't buy the games that require its use. Microsoft, however, is still committed to making you actually buy one.

When questioned, the company held firm to this, saying, "Kinect is still an essential and integrated part of the Xbox One platform. By having it as a consistent part of every Xbox One, game and entertainment creators can build experiences that assume the availability of voice, gesture and natural sensing, leading to unrivaled ease of use, premium experiences and interactivity for consumers. We also strongly believe that once you try the all-new Kinect and the game and entertainment experiences it enhances or enables, you won’t want to use your Xbox One without it."

So why the change? According to Microsoft, this is part of making the average person comfortable with the device and ensuring they know they can take it down at any point. The goal, apparently , is to reassure people that they can dismantle it, thereby making them feel at home, thereby ensuring they set the device up and never notice it again. Once its in your home, MS is confident you'll love using it.

Last stand or inevitable defeat?

This leaves one plank standing between the Xbox One that Microsoft unveiled and the Xbox One of today:  You will be forced to buy a Kinect. Even if you never use it. And while Microsoft has been amazingly responsive, this may be the one point they can't back off on. The problem is this:  If Microsoft has committed to Kinect, and committed to game developers about Kinect, if it really thinks it has a killer distinguishing feature in the device, it can't back off that commitment now. Especially not if Kinect is as expensive as claimed.

But that doesn't mean you and I will be paying for it.

If sales suffer, Microsoft may have no choice but to cut prices and eat the $100 difference between itself and Sony. To be honest, if you hate Kinect, that's what I'd bet on. I don't think the manufacturer can get rid of the device, but there's no reason to preorder the box at $500 if the $100 difference forces Microsoft to cut prices soon thereafter.

Still, my hat is off to Redmond. No other company has ever been so responsive to the concerns of players, or made such changes, so rapidly, to the planned launch of a device.