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What really grinds my gears of war: The Kinect Free Xbox One

What grinds my gears of way
What grinds my gears of way
DB Buckner

Do you know what really grinds my gears? Microsoft doing a 180 on the Kinect for Xbox One, that’s what. I know. I know. A lot of gamers were complaining that they were being forced to buy a console with Kinect even though they don’t want to use it. I get that, but Microsoft’s answer was that Kinect was an integral part of their vision for the future of Xbox One… and now all of the sudden it just isn't anymore.

How can that be? I feel like the marketing of Xbox One has been a complete disaster since the beginning. I believe that monkeys with an abacus and a memo pad could have come up with a better strategy than the brass at Xbox has managed to do.

Mind you, I was a big fan of the first Xbox and the Xbox 360. I feel like the original Xbox was a better console than the PS2 and the Xbox 360 was a better console than the PS3 from a gaming perspective through most of the life cycle of those consoles. I completely planned on rolling right into being a Xbox One owner without any apprehension, until there was major apprehension. Microsoft was the very company who birthed that apprehension in me. Changing their mind on the Kinect was the last straw.

You cannot build something around a central concept and then strip that concept completely away after three million people have bought into it. By not requiring the Kinect, they are essentially murdering their own baby and tossing it into the technology relic bin. Make no mistake about it, the Kinect is dead.

When you sell two different versions of the Xbox One, developers are going to develop for the greatest common denominator. Let us say over the course of 2014, Microsoft sells an additional one million Xbox One’s with Kinect and two million of the lower priced version without the device. A developer has three choices. They can develop a game that takes full advantage of Kinect which will leave out two million potential consumers; they can tack on some after thought Kinect gimmick gameplay element like Madden’s goofy audibles just to say the game includes Kinect support while forgoing the ten percent of extra processing power that is taken up by utilizing Kinect features or they can just not waste time programming any Kinect features and use the extra processing power and market the game to all Xbox One users equally. Which one would you choose?

While Microsoft’s decision to sell a version of the Xbox One sans Kinect might entice some people to buy the console who might not have otherwise, it actually helped me make up my mind to not buy an Xbox One and go with the PS4 instead. By abandoning the Kinect, Microsoft is basically marketing the Xbox One as a gaming console. If I am going to buy a console purely to play games, then why would I buy the one that is not as powerful of a gaming system… even if it is the same price now? Head to head, the PS4 boasts slightly better specs for gaming. It was Microsoft’s ambitious vision that the Xbox One was going to be more than just a gaming system that was the strongest selling point and they have done everything possible to backtrack on that original innovative vision to compete head to head with Sony as a simple game console, but you can’t be something you are not. You cannot spend years of planning and development doing one thing and then all of the sudden say, “You know that thing we were telling you we weren’t trying to be; well now we are trying to be exactly that”. You can’t market “It doesn’t matter if their specs are slightly better because we aren’t trying to be just a gaming system” for a year and then strip away all the stuff that made you that in order to compete with a system that was designed and developed to be “just a gaming system” from the beginning. The entire user interface of Microsoft’s vision for Xbox One was built around Kinect. The entire marketing campaign consisted of commercials of people using the Kinect.

I have seen gamers complain about Kinect. At first the major complaint was that Microsoft could secretly access your camera and mic and spy on you. I never understood this fear. I have been a gamer for over 25 years. All my friends are gamers. If I was a female gamer this might be a concern for me, but most of the people expressing this concern are male gamers like me. I would feel sorry for the guy at Microsoft who has the job of tuning in on the living room of a bunch of dudes playing Call of Duty in their underwear eating Cheetos and downing a case of Mountain Dew while arguing with their buddy on Xbox Live about who has the dumber disguise, Arrow or Superman. I mean really, are you guys discussing some evil plan to rule the world or something? Why in the world would anyone want to listen in or (even worse) see what is in most of our living rooms? I can only imagine the poor guy at Microsoft uttering, “The horror…the horror” ala Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now every night while tuning into different Kinect cams.

When that was pretty much debunked, the next complaint was about being forced to buy Kinect. So now Microsoft has completely reversed its earlier stance that Kinect was an integral part of the Xbox One experience to cater to the gamer. First, I wonder how many of those people who complained will actually now purchase the console. I have a feeling most of those people won’t. Second, for those that do, I would ask why? I can understand if you want to own both consoles so you never miss an exclusive. If that were the case, I could see buying the less expensive version of the console. However, if you can only buy one console and you are buying it solely as a hardcore gaming console, why would you buy the one that is not quite as good at gaming? It makes no sense. If you want the other stuff that Xbox One has that PS4 doesn't, then wouldn't you want the whole experience as the designers envisioned it to be? If Microsoft was going to market a Kinect free Xbox One for the same price as a PS4, then they should have made darn sure it matched specs with or had better specs than the PS4. I just don't understand any of this. I would be interested in hearing from other gamers in the comments below or on twitter @cavemangamer.

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