There are some big changes in the works in the coming month for Microsoft’s flagship console, as we found out from the head of Xbox, Phill Spencer today.
First off, and probably the most stunning news, is that the Xbox One is getting a price drop to $399, which excludes the Kinect. This is set to launch to all current Xbox One supported markets on June 9th. With this move, Microsoft hopes to thrust itself back into the console race before Sony gets an insurmountable lead, knowing that just 6 months into the race, the majority of gamers still have not made the jump to the new consoles. Changing strategies this early can only be a good thing for the Xbox One’s sales, as it finally gives everyone a really competitive choice that will in many cases, come back down to the quality of the games.
Secondly, Games for Gold is heading to the Xbox One, allowing users to get free titles, as well as large discounts on select others. In June, Xbox One owners will get access to “Max: The Curse of Brotherhood” and “Halo: Spartan Assault” for free, in addition to the titles they would be getting for the 360: “Dark Souls,” “Charlie Murder” and “Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition.”
Additionally, Microsoft has removed the Xbox Live Gold membership requirement from entertainment apps, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and more. This will put Microsoft on par with Sony’s PS4, which has never had a pay wall for entertainment applications.
This is a big step for Microsoft, and it is still in the air as to which direction the step is in, but I think it’s safe to say that forward is a good bet. Since the Xbox One’s initial announcement in May of last year, they have been receiving criticism from fans about the directions they decided to go with regards to the Kinect. This factored in largely to discrepancy in sales between the Xbox One and PS4 in the recent months. The most recent sales numbers show Microsoft with 5 million units “shipped to retailers,” and the PS4 with 7 million units actually sold. There is no doubt that Microsoft has been listening to fans though. Throughout the last year, they went back on plans that upset their users, including requiring the Kinect to be plugged in, and the ability to play used games on the system.
This was a move that Microsoft didn’t want to make. The Kinect was their vision for the console. One of the reasons they included it in every sale was so game developers would more actively look at integrating its functions into their games, knowing that every player would have the peripheral, which is what led to the lackluster software support on the 360 version. With the coverage of this story on so many news outlets, I haven’t seen anyone really comment on how this will affect the game developers who may be working on games yet to be announced, which may have revolved around the Kinect’s functionality.
It is inevitable that we will see the $399 Kinect-less Xbox One outsell the original, as there isn’t a reason to get it yet. The gimmicky voice controls are no replacement for innovative games which would drive sales of the peripheral; and innovative games will be harder to come by if developers know that they will be reaching an audience reduced in size from what they were originally expecting. Consumers will have the option to purchase the Kinect separately if they choose, but to get games that would drive those sales, developers will have to make a risk with their title in hopes that fans will not only play $20-60 for their game, but also another $100 on top of that.