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Microsoft announces big changes to Xbox One and Xbox Live Gold

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Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, through a press release this morning, made a few major announcements concerning Xbox One and Xbox Live Gold.

First, Xbox One will be available for purchase without Kinect at a price of just $399. This is a $100 decrease from the retail price of the original Xbox One SKU. According to Spencer, a standalone Kinect sensor will be available for purchase separately, sometime in the Fall. Pricing on the standalone Kinect was not announced.

The next big announcement Microsoft made was that it will drop the Xbox Live Gold subscription requirement for access to apps on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One. This means that watching videos on Netflix, for example, no longer requires a user to pay for an Xbox Live Gold sub.

Lastly, Spencer revealed plans to improve the value of Xbox Live Gold for Xbox One users with free games and discounts on games. Previously, the Games with Gold program, which gives Gold subscribers two free games every month, only applied to the Xbox 360.

All of that being said, the Kinect sensor is an excellent peripheral for the Xbox One, and should not be summarily disregarded. Not only is the motion detection quite good, but the voice command detection is immensely useful. And Kinect is a necessity for those interested in recording game clips, using Skype, and streaming themselves playing games via Twitch.

As for Xbox Live Gold, obviously the free games are going to be a tremendous perk, but without Gold, users will not be able to play multiplayer games online or use apps like the outstanding Xbox Fitness app (Kinect required for use). The benefits of an Xbox Live Gold subscription far outweigh the costs, especially considering 1-year Xbox Live Gold subscriptions are routinely available for around $40 at online retail outlets.

There are serious questions as to whether the availability of an Xbox One sans Kinect will negatively affect sales of Kinect-based games like the upcoming Harmonix title, Fantasia, but ultimately, giving users the choice of purchasing Kinect will expand the Xbox One user base. With a larger base of consumers, developers will have increased confidence to create games on the platform.

Pre-order the Xbox One standard edition without Kinect at Amazon.

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