A Kinect-less Xbox One Is in the Cards for 2014

The Kinect 2.0 camera makes up a big part of the Xbox One package from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) . Even though the device is no longer a requirement for using the system, as had initially been the plan, it is still tied to many of the console's defining features. The Xbox One's TV integration and browsing features greatly benefit from the addition of the 3-D camera and its built-in microphone. Some of the Xbox One's games require the Kinect 2.0 to be used as the primary input mechanism, while others make use of the technology in more supplementary roles.

The Xbox One and its Kinect 2.0 camera enjoyed strong launches in North America and Europe. The product's troubled unveiling gave reason to doubt that the $500 console would thrive in the market, but its initial sales showed that the brand still has kick. With strong support from third parties and Microsoft greatly invested in the console's success, there is little reason to doubt that the Xbox One will outsell the Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) Wii U several times over. What is in doubt is whether it can beat out the PlayStation 4 from Sony  (NYSE: SNE  ) . That's why Mr. Softy will be shipping a Kinect-less Xbox One in 2014.

Chasing the success of yesteryear
The introduction of the Kinect camera for the Xbox 360 was one of Microsoft's great successes in the last console cycle. Between bundles and stand-alone sales, Microsoft says it has sold over 24 million Kinects for the 360. This feat is particularly impressive because add-on peripherals typically have trouble reaching those kinds of adoption numbers.

The original Kinect came as a response to the motion-gaming phenomena that drove Nintendo's Wii console to stratospheric popularity. Microsoft's camera debuted at exactly the right time. The Wii had just begun to falter and the Xbox 360 was reaching mass-market price points. Kinect outperformed even the optimistic projections. The incredible success of the camera and the importance of appealing to casual gamers saw the Kinect 2.0 become central to the planning of Microsoft's next Xbox. Given the current console sales data, it's a move that the company probably wishes it could take back.

Motion gaming doesn't move like it used to
Motion gaming is not the massive draw that it was in the last console cycle. The casual players that it attracted appear to have lapsed. These gamers may or may not have been drawn away by cheaper offerings on mobile, but they are certainly not driving new console sales. The biggest problem facing Microsoft with the Xbox One is cost. At a price $100 higher than the PlayStation 4 and with weaker hardware, the Kinect features and Microsoft's stable of exclusive games become the reasons to choose the console over its primary competitor. The fact is Microsoft's camera is not justifying the cost it adds to the Xbox One package.

Momentum matters
November's sales numbers saw the Xbox One move approximately 910,000 units; an impressive figure, but also below what the PS4 posted by an as-of-yet unreported margin. In the UK, Sony's system moved 530,000 units in five weeks of sales, while the One managed about 364,000 units. The PS4 is said to be outselling the Xbox One in Spain by an approximate 3:1 margin. These trends will have to be reversed if Microsoft hopes to make good on its gaming investment in this cycle. Consider that the Xbox One will have very little presence in Japan and the picture of Sony establishing a substantial global sales lead starts to come together.

What about those Tier-2 and Tier-3 territories?
Microsoft wants to have some manner of presence in Asian territories, which provides another reason for a Kinect-less Xbox One being released in 2014. Homes in Asian cities tend to be smaller and more compact, which means that a living room or TV-area often lacks the space for a Kinect to function.

The six- to eight-foot distance that should separate players from the camera's sensor bar might not sound like a lot, but this actually appears prohibitive for a substantial number of Japanese gamers. If you've got an expensive piece of optional camera hardware that weighs down your console globally, you don't spend the time and resources necessary to further rework that hardware so that you can better sell it in your weakest territory. You just ditch it.

Bet ya bottom dollar
Microsoft may have adamantly stated that Xbox One would never ship without Kinect, but plans to do just that are almost certainly under way. If the company intends to stick around in the console business, it knows it can't afford to leave the One's price problem unaddressed. By the end of 2014, you're going to be able to buy Xbox One hardware at a lower price in a box that weighs about one 3-D camera less. 

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Read/Post Comments (13) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 7:17 AM, normgarry wrote:

    KINECT is worth the extra $100. Being able to use voice commands and play games with physical gestures is cool.

    Keep in mind, PS4 SHOULD HAVE A CAMERA to give it similar functionality but:

    #1 the camera is sold seperatly for $60 and

    #2 the PS4 camera isn't as goid as Kinect.

    A lot of development went into Kinect and it shows.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 7:45 AM, deputyspade wrote:

    Norm, kinect is not worth the extra $100 and your argument is stale and weak. Kinect is a gimmick that will have the same fate of the Nintendo Wii did when the motion gaming fad crashed. The cameras are irrelevant to the main purpose of the consoles, which is GAMING. The sales discrepancy between the xb1 and PS4 is evidence enough that Microsoft has not convinced people that kinect is worth it. What will be interesting after the Holidays are over now, is how far will the xb1's sales go down. They never sell as well during the non Holiday months.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 9:03 AM, filmsnork wrote:

    First, I would like to thank, Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, for her willingness to tell her tale of perseverance. If acting is not working for you, I applaud your courageousness to leave Hollywood behind and work online from home. Who knew she worked at Shop Rite? Best of luck to you.

    As for the XB1 - PS4 debate - it comes down to one thing, money. Drop the XB1 by one hundred dollars today and watch the sales go through the roof.

    The Kinect is a great part of the evolution of gaming. Things do and must continue to change or the end of the console will occur sooner than most of you would like.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 1:37 PM, Jsblazed wrote:

    MS better not try this. I bought X1 back on Nov. 22 with the promise that Kinect will always be a packed in accessory. I like the Kinect, and I can see the potential- I think if you are having issues with it you are: retarded and/or need to quit mumbling.

    I would like to see it used more in games- like the voice commands, head tracking and lean feature in BF4.

    It changes the MP split screen around for where you are sitting in the room. Turning up/down the volume, Play/Pause in Netflix- turning on your whole living room On/Off by just saying "Xbox ON/Off" -> This is real nice.

    I think we need to see what MS has up the sleeves for the future. There drivers are behind- cloud compute hasn't even been seen yet and your acting like there doomed because they have 'only' sold 3 million consoles in 13 countries compared to a PS4 that is available in 48 countries and only selling 4 million.

    Still have my fingers crossed for illumiroom, only possible with Kinect- MS still may have it or something like it brewing.

    MS better not back track on this too.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 2:29 PM, JakeMoline wrote:

    XB1 = superior product

    PS4 = most bang for your buck

    The obvious winner will be Sony partly due to their price point, larger market, and the fact that it hasn't hit Japan yet. Microsoft cannot continue with their current attitude at the release of the XB1. plus Sony's stock(SNE) has been in a lull currently around $17-18, you can make a pretty penny real easily after February even if they pissed on their native country with the 3 month late release. The Japanese public will be less disappointed in opening a box with a superior product and likely forget the wait after plugging it in.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 4:20 PM, KenLuskin wrote:

    When MSFT wants to increase demand, which won't be for awhile, probably not until 2015, they will simply use their balance sheet to provide some subsidization thru a mobile phone like contract.

    Payments will be made through Xbox live monthly charges.

    As time goes on, games will use the voice and gesture control of the Kinect...

    Sony will be forced to more fully integrate like the Xbox 1.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 4:50 PM, lolwutwut wrote:

    No Norm, it is NOT worth $100, but you are right it is cool to do all that stuff -- IF it works, keyword: IF. And to Jsblazed, it doesn't work for people because it's a piece of junk, people are getting COMPLETELY different results even when speaking slowly and loudly, so it can understand what is being said, albeit it still doesn't understand it. It's a complete piece of junk.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 4:51 PM, lolwutwut wrote:

    Since apparently I can't edit my post, which is dumb, I have to say Norm and Jsblazed are total MS fanboys.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 9:42 PM, johnlonh12 wrote:

    MS wrote themselves into a corner. $100 extra for a weaker box with a piece of hardware almost no one wants

    (some of you CLAIM it's useful, but don't kid yourselves. All it can do well for gaming purposes are voice commands and ANY microphone could do the same thing if they let you use them. The Xbox has the software for detecting the voice, not the camera they make you buy with it)

    Despite it being pretty much as useless for gaming as Kinect 1.0 was which will pretty much ensure no great uses will ever be made, if they go this route, there goes the advantage of every xbox having the software. Devs would all then have to either plan for people who don't have it or decide to exclude them. Not smart.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 9:54 AM, Ahlfs wrote:

    PS4 was always going to win, its the most powerful gaming system with no need of gimmicks. The best system usually has a tendency to rain supreme.

    XBox fanboys are mad they bought into Microsoft's gimmicks and if there not they will be when more games come out and all of them still better on the PS4!

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 10:56 AM, Daweejie wrote:

    I bought the XBOX One. There are no Kinect games yet on the market to purchase and play. As of now the purpose of the Kinect is for voice control of the entertainment system (the One Guide, etc.) You can't appeal to the "casual" gamers without Kinect games for them to play. My 10 year old doesn't want to play Call of Duty and Forza. She wants Kinect Sports, but it is not out yet.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 11:32 AM, edteked wrote:

    Like most here...the xbox one is trying to be too much...it's a gaming platform, pure and simple...unfortunately, with no backwards compatibility, and none for the future, it is very limited in that capacity with a very small number of games available to it.

    There really is no reason to use the kinect for any of the real games..

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 12:33 PM, cyrinos wrote:

    what about MSFT taking one in the nards for the consumer. drop the price of the bundle, the money is in the software and licensiing. That's what Sony banks on. Licensing and software sales..

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