What A Kinect-Free Xbox One Means To Sony


Microsoft stunned the gaming community today when they announced that starting June 9 a new Xbox One SKU would be available for $399 and that it would not include Kinect. Buried in the Press Release was also the minor bombshell that a large number of entertainment apps (including Netflix, ESPN, YouTube and more) would no longer be behind the Xbox Live Gold subscriber paywall, but we’ll get to that later.

Getting the price of the Xbox One in line with the PlayStation 4 is crucial to the health of the system, obviously more than any of us realized. Over the past year, Microsoft has been attempting to move the needle in terms of the home console experience. The focus on television and video services along with the inclusion of Kinect with every single console sold was a daring gamble. One that, so far anyway, has been an unmitigated disaster.


A lot of the problems came from Microsoft bungling the message early on. From Always On requirements, the end of Used Games as we know it, a focus on the Set Top box functionality and a tightly integrated Kinect, it was a lot to take in. The biggest problem is that they weren’t prepared for the initial backlash and suffered through different executives giving mixed messages. We were also told that the Kinect was an integral part of the experience and couldn’t/wouldn’t be removed from the equation. Now, less than five months after launch, that has changed.

Sony’s runaway success with the PlayStation 4 has really forced Microsoft’s hand here. It appears likely that they were waiting to see if Titanfall could help reverse their fortunes or at the very least, stop the bleeding. It’s quite apparent at this point that Respawn’s exclusive Mech frenzy hasn’t lit the world on fire, otherwise Microsoft would be trumpeting its sales from the rooftops. So, when the numbers began to come in and nothing was changing they started talking about the unthinkable.

In a series of interviews over the last few hours, executives have mentioned that serious talk began back in April. Just talking about the ‘conscious uncoupling’ of the Xbox One and Kinect must have been agonizing for them. Remember that they built an entire strategy around the ‘magical experiences that come with Kinect‘ and even started out nearly a year ago with a line in the sand that the two were inseparable.


I can hear the fanboys stirring outside my window so let me get this out: I don’t think this was necessarily a lie from Microsoft, just standard PR speak. They had a vision, albeit a poorly conceived and conveyed vision, and they tried their hardest to make it work. Remember that there was a massive Day One patch to disentangle the Kinect functionality from the Xbox One even just a little. This is something they never planned for or expected to do. So as far as Microsoft was concerned, their vision of what the Xbox One with Kinect would become over the lifespan of this console generation made the two really inseparable.

As Microsoft was savaged across the Internet, consumers spoke with their wallets. While both consoles are selling unprecedented numbers, Sony has more than doubled sales of the Xbox One to this point, with stronger numbers even in North America, where the Xbox 360 dominated the PS3 this previous generation. Microsoft had to do something to reverse the trend as they were quickly becoming an also-ran this generation. And where Sony spent most of the previous generation as the Internet’s favorite arrogant, out of touch whipping boy, Microsoft has quickly taken their place.

They’ve taken a some huge steps towards making the Xbox One relevant again and pulling the video services out of the Xbox Live Gold subscription is just as big and potentially game changing as the Kinect move. So, with an optional Kinect, price parity and now the liberated video services, where does that leave us? With two consoles that, to the average consumer anyway, look pretty much the same. The differentiators are going to come down to exclusives again. Yes, you can argue the architecture and raw power differences between the two for the next ten years, but to the everyday person, the one walking into a Best Buy or Target, they just want to know where the best value lies and what games they have.


Yes, Microsoft still has the TV functionality and the HDMI pass through up their sleeves, but they’ll really need to find a compelling way to market that to the average consumer that still has trouble figuring out how to hook up a console in the first place.

This all but guarantees, in my mind anyway, that Grand Theft Auto V for Xbox One (and PlayStation 4 of course) will be announced on stage at E3 in a few weeks, probably with some exclusive or timed content. Expect some heavy hitters on stage as well including something new from Epic and at the very least a trailer and maybe some gameplay footage of the next Halo. Taking another page from Sony’s playbook, probably at the urging of former PlayStation Social Media Manager Jeff Rubenstein, Games With Gold hits the Xbox One in June with free games and discounts.

A number of Sony’s advantages (price, no apps behind a paywall) have been erased while others (PlayStation Plus free games and discounts) are quickly being eroded. Sony has to come out strong at E3 and really wow people with their exclusives. They need to expand the PlayStation Now Beta to everyone with PlayStation Plus and put a time frame on an eventual launch, even if it’s a vague as ‘This Fall’. They have amazing relationships with Indie Developers, gobs of untapped potential in the Vita and its connectivity with the PS4 and there’s still the unknown quantity of Project Morpheus. They need to push all of this and push it hard.


So Sony has a number of ways to differentiate themselves but to do it they’ll need to excel in an area where they’ve been historically weak, marketing. Microsoft has quickly achieved parity of a sort and the gloves are off. You can bet they’ve got a full onslaught planned for E3 and after and they’ll be aiming to hit the PlayStation as hard as they can. Sony has to be ready for this and really start pushing consumer awareness of their strengths and the things that make them different from Microsoft.

Personally, I never thought Microsoft would take the Kinect out of the box. At first glance, the timing may seem odd but right now it’s all anyone is talking about leading into E3 and it has ramped up the excitement and expectations for each of the presentations.

Sony has an edge in that Microsoft’s Presser is in the morning while theirs is later that evening, giving them ample time to adjust their message and I can guarantee that they’ll need to. Either way, this E3 just went from ho-hum, no big deal to one of the most interesting and exciting in years. What do you guys make of all of this?

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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