Kotaku is among the sites to report that Microsoft will sell the Xbox One without requiring players to also purchase a Kinect, starting on June 9. The Kinect-free version of the console will sell for $400, not coincidentally bringing the Xbox One in line with the PlayStation 4’s retail price. (With Kinect, the console retails for $500.) This news comes despite Microsoft’s past repeated insistence that the camera accessory was an “essential and integrated part of the Xbox One platform”—indeed, the company had originally planned to make the Xbox One inoperable without a Kinect attached, although that scheme was abandoned before the console was released.
While the move gives potential buyers more choice, there is some minor collateral damage. Presumably, some of the customers who didn’t want the Kinect but paid $500 for the Xbox One anyway—believing Microsoft’s “we’ll never unbundle” hogwash—are feeling a little silly right now. And Kinect game developers, who had likewise relied on Microsoft’s assurances that the Kinect was standard equipment, are now having to reassess their plans. Joystiq notes that the director of publishing at Harmonix, which has an elaborate Kinect game in the works, responded to the announcement with a deadpan, “Oh, great. Super great.”
But Microsoft executives apparently decided that this predictable pushback was worth it to keep Xbox One sales from settling into a permanent second-place position behind Sony’s PlayStation 4. The Kinect’s appeal simply has not been enough to compensate for the $100 price gap, so until now, Microsoft was fighting this latest console war with one hand tied behind its back.
Microsoft also announced other changes to make the Xbox One more like the PlayStation 4. Most notably, users will no longer need a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to use entertainment apps on their console, finally ending the bizarre practice of paying Microsoft to use Netflix. (Sony has never required a paid account to launch streaming-video apps on the PlayStation 3 or the PS4.) The other significant change to Xbox Live is less consumer-friendly: Any free Xbox One games that you acquire through the Games With Gold program—which offers free games each month to Xbox Live Gold users—will expire if you cancel your Gold subscription. That’s a shift from the equivalent offering on the Xbox 360, which lets you keep your free games indefinitely, but it matches up with Sony’s PlayStation Plus preferred-customer program, which revokes free games if you stop paying for Plus.