In the latest in a series of reversals of its Xbox One policies, the senior Microsoft executive in charge of the firm’s Xbox business said this week that the console’s Kinect sensor would not need to be connected for it to work. This is contrary to Microsoft’s previous public statements about Kinect on Xbox One.
This aspect of Kinect/Xbox One bundling is a red herring in my opinion. Anyone who actually believes that the Xbox One could spy on you through Kinect is being silly, and anyone who tries to comingle this possibility with overwrought fears about the NSA seriously needs help. No, the real issue is that Kinect—and the cost of Kinect—is being foisted on all Xbox One customers whether they want it or not.
Anyway. The latest Xbox One reversal came during a scripted Q&A between Microsoft chief Xbox officer Marc Whitten and IGN. When asked whether Xbox One would require the Kinect to be plugged in to work—which Microsoft had previously admitted was the case, Whitten had the following answer.
“The console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.”
In a related bit, he was asked how “off” the Kinect can be when it is still plugged in.
“You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings,” he said. “When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue.”
Of course, Microsoft still has no plans to sell an Xbox One without a Kinect, a move that could lower the entry price of the console to a more palatable $399. He enumerates a number of benefits of having Kinect bundled with Xbox One as a key feature of the platform.
“Xbox One is designed to work with Kinect plugged in,” he said. “It makes gaming better in many ways – from the ability to say “Xbox On” and get right to your personalized home screen, to the ability to control your TV through voice, SmartGlass and more. Kinect allows you to search for your content, instantly move between games and your personalized dash and more with just your voice. Kinect helps you pick up and play by automatically knowing which controller you have in your hands. No more need to interrupt your friend’s game or navigate through multiple UI screens to sign in and tell the system which controller you are holding. It will even bind the controller to the console if it’s currently unbound – no searching for special buttons! Of course – these are just a few of the system wide benefits of having Kinect. Games use Kinect in a variety of amazing ways from adding voice to control your squad mates to adding lean and other simple controls beyond the controller to full immersive gameplay.”
Eh. I’d still rather buy a Kinect-less version, personally. And given the way things are going, I expect to have that wish granted any day now.