Yesterday, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox brand, claimed that the recently announced Kinect-less Xbox One will be about 10 percent more powerful than units bundled with the Kinect.
Sure, the Kinect isn't perfect. It never was, especially when it was still in its first generation on the Xbox 360. But Microsoft made the decision at first to bundle every Xbox One with a Kinect, meaning that developers would have a legitimate business reason to develop games and functions for the motion-sensing device. The current flagship Kinect game, “Kinect Sport Rivals,” is a good step in the right direction: It demonstrates that the Kinect can handle more than just voice commands for Netflix.
But Microsoft has given up on bundling the Xbox One’s standout feature so it can charge less for the console. And that’s a shame, because the Kinect is rather capable.
The Kinect gave Microsoft one-up on Sony’s Playstation 4 -- the PS4 camera is an afterthought, since Sony focused almost completely on gaming performance with its console. Microsoft had built and marketed the One as a multimedia platform, all controlled by your voice and hand gestures with the Kinect. Without that, where does that leave the Xbox One?
Even with the boosted GPU resources, it’s probably less powerful than the PS4. Without the party game capability of the Kinect pro, the Xbox One is likely still coming in second in brute strength in the console race, with nothing to balance the scales.
That makes it, essentially, an upgraded Xbox 360 with a small gaming library.
I understand the decision somewhat -- one of the reasons the PS4 sold more than the Xbox One at one point was the $100 price difference, which Microsoft’s ditching of the Kinect removes. But now, with both consoles the same price in the short term, what happens to Microsoft’s long-term game plan?
Microsoft had an opportunity to evolve motion gaming, but it appears it's given up on it.
So what reason is there to buy an Xbox One now? Unless you’re a diehard fan of Microsoft exclusives (many of which can/will be found on PC as well anyway, because, you know, Microsoft does the whole Windows thing), there’s always virtual reality? Wait, no, Sony’s console already has that capability.
Well, I can’t really think of anything. But the console will still sell well, probably more so now that its list price is cheaper.
The real question is, will this short-term investment pay off? Console generations are wars, not skirmishes.