In a major reversal of policy, Microsoft has announced that it will sell its Xbox One gaming console without a Kinect sensor for $399, starting June 9.
That represents a $100 discount for customers who don’t want the Kinect, and puts the Xbox One at the same starting price as its rival, Sony’s PlayStation 4.
Microsoft had touted the Kinect, which can track a player’s movements and speech and map them onto the screen, as an essential feature of its Xbox system, despite pushback from gamers who said they just wanted to play games with the traditional controller.
Now it appears that Microsoft has relented, hoping to attract new buyers and better compete against the PlayStation 4, with a cheaper, Kinect-less system.
"Your feedback matters to us and it shapes the products and services we build," Phil Spencer, the Head of Xbox for Microsoft, wrote in a blog post announcing the change.
As part of its announcement, Microsoft also said that you will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to access entertainment apps like Netflix and Hulu. Previously, you needed to pay $60 to play content from these apps, on top of your subscription fees, drawing complaints from gamers.
The Kinect-less Xbox One, however, is an enormous reversal for Microsoft, and perhaps one of new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s first important decisions. Last August, Microsoft VP Phil Harrison summed up Microsoft’s attitude toward Kinect in an interview by proclaiming that “Xbox One is Kinect. They are not separate systems.”
"An Xbox One has chips," Harrison continued, "it has memory, it has Blu-ray, it has Kinect, it has a controller. These are all part of the platform ecosystem."
Microsoft released the Xbox One with Kinect, its first console since 2005, for $499 last November. At the same time, Sony released its PlayStation 4 for $399; buyers could add on a PlayStation 4 Camera, which is similar to the motion-tracking Kinect system, for $70. Accessing entertainment apps did not require an additional fee on the PS4 like it did on Xbox One.