Microsoft has had quite a disastrous time in its attempts to promote the new Xbox One console ahead of its hotly anticipated launch in November this year.
When it was unveiled in May, the system met with a number of criticisms from fans, which arguably gave Sony’s PlayStation 4 the edge before the next generation console race had even begun in earnest.
One of the biggest complaints was the news that the Xbox One would require the Kinect camera peripheral to be connected and active at all times, leading to concerns over privacy. But now a Microsoft executive has claimed that it is backtracking on this requirement, levelling the playing field further.
So the question of whether I should sell my trusty Nintendo DS and save up for a machine from Microsoft or Sony this autumn has just become a little trickier to answer.
Kinect Climb Down
The Kinect revelation emerged during a recent Q&A session held by IGN during which Microsoft spokesperson Marc Whitten said that the Xbox One will still work perfectly well, even if Kinect is unplugged.
This effectively overturns previous plans to make it a mandatory peripheral that must always be hooked up to the console, even when not in use by any game or service.
Whitten made a point of reminding gamers that if Kinect is not active, they will not be able to use any of its features, either in games or while using the console’s three-tiered operating system.
Unfortunately it seems that while gamers will not have to have Kinect attached to the Xbox One to enjoy their favourite titles, Microsoft is still bundling the peripheral with every single console it ships so that developers know they can access a consistent set of hardware in every home.
This means that the anticipated £429 UK launch price of the console will remain the same, dramatically exceeding the £349 RRP for Sony’s PlayStation 4, which of course will not come with a camera peripheral as part of the standard package.
Revise and Retreat
With the announcement that Kinect is no longer obligatory, Microsoft is adding to a long list of U-turns that it has made in the past couple of months.
This includes the issue with used games, which Microsoft was originally planning to lock down to just a couple of accounts, thus making it impossible for people to sell their old titles on to strangers.
Microsoft also made it clear that it would be allowing independent games developers to publish their own content and would not be requiring that every Xbox One has to connect to the internet at least once every 24 hours.
During the recent Q&A it was revealed that Microsoft has boosted the clock speed of the console’s graphics chip to give it a better chance to compete on a technical level with the marginally more powerful PS4.
But for many industry observers and gamers, the price difference between these two titans will be the real deciding factor, at least in the early stages of the next console war.