Is This the First Sign of a Kinect-less Xbox One?

In planning and designing console hardware, companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , and Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) need to have a good deal of foresight for what their respective systems require in order to thrive. Gaming consoles are usually supported for a minimum of four years by these companies and must have a technological makeup and feature set that allows them to stay relevant throughout their lifecycle.

When Microsoft was planning its most recent console, the Xbox One, it envisioned a future in which the device was the center of the living room entertainment setup. It also placed great emphasis on the Kinect 2.0 camera technology that was included with every console. All of this was planned well in advance of news that Sony's PlayStation 4 would feature more powerful hardware and debut at a lower price point. Does an upcoming patch for the Xbox One suggest that Microsoft is readying a Kinect-less SKU in order to better compete with Sony?

Where have all the casuals gone?
Microsoft's ability to attract both casual and hardcore gamers with its Xbox 360 console and software made the company a popular favorite to win market share lead in the most recently begun round of the console war. The version of the Kinect that the company introduced for the Xbox 360 was wildly successful and went on to become one of the best-selling peripheral accessories in gaming history. By making the new Kinect camera central to the Xbox One, Microsoft could continue chasing the casual audience that Nintendo had courted with the Wii while also improving the console's multi-media capabilities. The apparent migration of casual gamers to mobile and the early sales lead established by Sony's $400 PS4 have called the value of Xbox One's Kinect into question.

Patching in a tune-up
While the patch has yet to be announced by Microsoft, a number of generally credible outlets have reported that the Xbox One is set to receive a significant update in the near future. The patch would see processing reserves devoted to the Kinect camera and video features freed up for developers to use for more conventional graphics processing. Such a move would represent a distinct change in strategy and product vision for the Xbox One. Leading up to the system's release, Kinect functionality and multi-media capabilities received major focus. This focus sometimes eschewed the notion that the device was primarily a gaming console.

It's said that the Xbox One currently reserves about 10% of its GPU's power for Kinect features. The upcoming patch will supposedly reduce that to approximately 2%, which would indicate a significant change in priorities on Microsoft's part. The PlayStation 4 has already demonstrated its power advantage across a number of multi-platform titles. Even with the still hypothetical patch, PlayStation 4's GPU and RAM would still give it a distinct advantage over the Xbox One. Still, Microsoft would likely be wise to allow reserves to be shifted toward graphics rendering.

It's not just U
Microsoft's Xbox One shares a dilemma with Nintendo's Wii U. Both systems are currently packaged with an expensive controller that is driving up price and limiting appeal. The Wii U's GamePad controller, which features a large touch screen, can safely be written off as a dud. While the ability to play games on the system's controller instead of a television may be appreciated by some fans, it has not caught on with the public at large. Nintendo failed to create software that showed why the GamePad made its new console worth signing up for. The company has been stuck marketing an overpriced piece of kit that receives minimal third party support. Similarly, Microsoft has not adequately demonstrated why users should spend the extra money for Kinect-enabled experiences.

Count on Kinect-less Xbox One in 2014
There are differing viewpoints within Microsoft as to whether or not maintaining the Xbox brand is a worthwhile investment, but all current indications point to the company doing whatever it takes (within reason) to ensure that the Xbox One is a success. Offering a Kinect-less SKU that is priced at parity or below Sony's PlayStation 4 would shake things up considerably, and this should be a relatively easy strategy for Microsoft to implement.

At this early juncture, Sony deserves credit for having crafted the product vision that is most in line with what it will take to become this generation's market leader. If the rumored GPU patch goes through, it will be another sign of Microsoft playing catch-up. It will also be a sign of a Kinect-less Xbox One on the horizon. 

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  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2014, at 6:20 PM, chrismireya wrote:

    Are you seriously comparing the Xbox One and the Kinect 2.0 multimedia camera/controller with the Wii U, its GamePad and last-generation specs?

    You may not like the Kinect for one reason or another. It may be too costly or simply unnecessary for a pure-gaming console. However, it is a technological marvel that is leaps beyond anything that Nintendo offers.

    This could be a sign that Microsoft is willing to sell the Xbox One without the Kinect. However, it could be a sign that Microsoft is willing to make a calculated business move and sell the Xbox One with Kinect 2.0 at a lower cost (and loss) in order to attract even more customers.

    Microsoft has already shipped off more than 3 Million consoles. How many would they sell at $399 if it included the Kinect 2.0? Would Microsoft make up the difference via Xbox Live Gold and/or game-related sales?

    I think that it could be a big opportunity -- unless Sony reciprocates in a big way.

  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2014, at 7:08 PM, Dragonslayer wrote:

    Good.

    The kinect is a gimmick and nothing more.

  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2014, at 8:34 PM, McSniperliger wrote:

    I personally like the Kinect. Yes its little quirky but it works. MicroSoft bundled the Kinect with the Xbox in hopes that more games would be developed. I have both the one for the 360 and the Xbox One. The downside to the original was that there was a lack of games for it because it came out so late, I was either in my Junior or Senior year in high school or so when it was released.

    If the new games being developed work with the Kinect and/or the controller I would be more inclined to playing the game without the controller. I'm not over-weight but I would sure bet sitting on the couch all day with a controller in my hands.

    One of the major downsides that the Xbox one has is the lack of backwards compatibility that is my only complaint. If they come out with a patch for this I would be more than happy getting rid of my Elite 360.

  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2014, at 10:31 PM, Hrothgar wrote:

    The kinect is a highly advanced technological marvel, and it's also completely useless. I don't want it and I don't need it. I also don't want or need about 90% of everything else the Xbox one "offers", most of which is counterproductive.

    I want deep, involved games, a standard controller, and capable internet functions. That's it. Nothing more and nothing else. No worthless gimmicks, no motion controls, no motion captures, nothing.

    Just. Good. Games.

    And that's why I bought a PS4.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 1:40 AM, anrbfan wrote:

    MS had to learn the hard way...you can't become the hub of everyone's home entertainment system if yo can't get into their homes in the first place because yo cost too much, and offer stuff no one wants. Kinect is a cool toy...for those who want it, but not everyone wants it. Even those who might like what the Kinect can do FOR them do NOT like what it does TO them...puts them under the observation of a Big Brother like spy who can watch them 24/7...and do who knows what with what he sees. That plus forcing gamers to be online to play, knocked XBO out of the ring competition wise. It is time for MS to admit defeat, scarp the X-Box One,and start working on a KInect-less X-Box Two which does NOT force players to be 'always online'. and does NOT spy on them, and does NOT cost a bundle. Of course, it needs better / faster chips, improved graphics, and lots of new games...startling new and different games which blow current & past items out of the water. It will take MS 5 years to even start thinking of such a product, and another 6 years to bring it to market, and then it will be too late, since Sony will be miles ahead by then. Kiss MS goodbye.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 2:57 AM, Bunnyking77 wrote:

    MSFT messed up by shoving that gimmick down everyone's throats and trading in precious processing power to do so.

    Right now there is a leak from a game developer stating that the XBOXone won't do 1080HD/60fps it just doesn't have the power.

    Even with the extra 8% processing boost they are allowing developers to use is not enough to equal the PS4's processor.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 3:04 AM, PowerslavePA wrote:

    Xbox GPU is overclocked +53Mhz, and a total of 10% is reserved for kinect. 8% won't make a difference, and the remaining 2% will always be for voice commands through Kinect.

    PS4's GPU is 50% more powerful, on paper, than the Xbox one GPU, ESRAM non withstanding.

    MS isn't going anywhere, keep dreaming.

    PS4 doesn't have backward compatibility either.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:50 AM, BigCrit wrote:

    The confirmation came via Phil Harrisson, a corporate vice president of Microsoft and member of the company’s Interactive Entertainment Team. In an interview after Microsoft’s Gamescom event yesterday, Harrisson was asked whether there would ever be an Xbox One without Kinect. His answer was very clear: “Xbox One is Kinect. They are not separate systems.”

    So basically if Microsoft does offer a Kinectless Xbox One, all of the people that were lied to and bought an Xbox One with Kinect sue the #$%^ out of Microsoft.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 9:03 AM, richmph wrote:

    Believe Apple recently purchased the Kinect company.

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