So it’s official – with a few weeks to go before E3, Microsoft have announced a mea culpa. In a press release titled “delivering more choice for fans”, Xbox head Phil Spencer reveals plans to release begin selling Xbox One without Kinect – for £349. That’s the same price as the PS4. It’s a remarkable U-turn, and essentially closes the door on any huge leaps in motion controls for another console generation.
The reason for the climbdown is pretty clear: Since Day 1 the Xbox One has been lagging slightly behind the PS4 – with the extra £100 on top of the asking price probably making the difference for price-conscious gamers. Though the Kinect promised many great things, Microsoft bundled in the camera knowing that the early-adopting hardcore gamers were already sceptical of the device, given the lukewarm reception of the first Kinect, not to mention the timing with the NSA leaks (do you really want a camera that is always on in your living room?).
Now I don’t want to crow – but I saw this coming. In fact, the writing was on the wall even before the release of either the PS4 or the Xbox One.
Before I started working at TechDigest, I wrote the occasional blog piece for the Huffington Post – including this one, in which I argued that we won’t see anything new on the motion control front this generation.
To cut a long story short, my argument was simple: due to the cost of triple-A titles, they need to appear on both major consoles and be playable on as many systems as possible. So when Sony dropped the inclusion of the camera in the standard PS4 box, it meant there would always be a certain proportion of players without a camera – so games would have to be built to work around not having one anyway. So why bother building camera support in the first place?
This latest move from Microsoft is the final nail in the coffin – now both a diminishing proportion of both Xbox One and PS4 gamers will bother to include camera support – so developers will just use good old fashioned buttons, so that everyone can play without any problems. Together Sony and Microsoft have killed off any expectation of widespread camera usage in this generation of consoles – so for, realistically, the next five years.
Of course – neither company will explain it like that, and we’ll no doubt see some token gestures (mini-game collections, anyone?) – but don’t expect to see the next Call of Duty requiring you leap around your living room.
I hate to sound like a dick, but…
By James O'Malley | May 13th, 2014