Microsoft is to release a cheaper version of the Xbox One without the Kinect. It will cost $399, making it more competitive with the PS4.
The new version will be available from June 9 and is already available for pre-order at several retailers. The Kinect system itself will be available as a standalone purchase (price currently unconfirmed) from the fall, allowing buyers to “upgrade” later on if they choose.
Microsoft had repeatedly insisted that Kinect was a key component of the Xbox One and that the console would never be available without it. Xbox exec Yusuf Mehdi wouldn’t give precise timings on when the company had a change of heart, but says talks have been going on for a couple of months. It appears the company may be making the move now so that it doesn’t distract from its other announcement, such as about games, at next month’s E3 event.
Mehdi didn’t explicitly say the original launch concept was a mistake, but did implicitly suggest that its a case of Microsoft having a vision for the console that not all customers shared. He also conceded that the original $499 price may have put people off and suggested some people on tighter budgets may go for the new edition and then add Kinect later.
Although Mehdi says the decision was made with input from game publishers, the move could certainly affect future titles. Publishers may be more reluctant to make games that rely heavily or entirely on voice and motion commands now they can’t be sure how many Xbox One owners will have those features.
Microsoft is working on some changes to the menu interfaces to make them more accessible and intuitive to people who only have a traditional controller. The new version of the console may allow for more graphically ambitious games as at the moment around 10 percent of the GPU capabilities are used to power Kinect.