MS: We ‘Revised Our Approach,’ XB1 Works Without Kinect

In what is beginning to resemble a bi-weekly ritual, Microsoft has once again bowed to the demands of its customers when it comes to the unpopular requirements of its upcoming next-gen console. In a statement given minutes ago to Game Front, the company has confirmed that despite months of claiming otherwise, Xbox One will allow users to turn off the built-in Kinect while still being able to use the device.

“When we first announced Xbox One, we did intend for Kinect to be plugged in for the console to work,” the statement reads. “As we’ve progressed in the development cycle we’ve revised our approach so that the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in. Xbox One is still designed to work best with Kinect plugged in.”

This news first appeared in a Q&A interview with Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Xbox Marc Whitten, posted on IGN. “You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings,” Whitten said at the time. “When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work.”

He also added that “like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.”

This is, of course, a sharp about-face from previous claims made by Microsoft that Kinect was all-but-required for the console to even function. But it continues a trend of the company responding rather decisively to critics, a nice change from the pre-E3 period.

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19 Comments on MS: We ‘Revised Our Approach,’ XB1 Works Without Kinect

fethski

On August 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Wow, preorder numbers must have been truly abysmal for MS to backtrack on everything they did. I guess they over-estimated the brand loyalty people had for them.

M.A.

On August 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

@fethski

That could be the reason, but I don’t think preorder numbers are as bad as some people seem to think. They’re still fairly high on Amazon, and they did sell out at what, best buy? So, regardless of how that compares to the PS4, the numbers are still where they were wanting them to be. My guess is the departure of Mattick and the corporate restructuring is allowing new people to influence to console direction, which then would be the source of the changes. My 2 cents, of course.

Blindman

On August 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I think they are mostly revising these statement for one of two reasons

1) They really really dont want playstation to have such an easy go at their new system, and developers dont want to feel as though they MUST take advantage of kinect.

2) this is a brilliant or terrible marketing scheme, so that later on MS can say they truly listen to fans.

Huntsman06

On August 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Well this proves that Microsoft WILL indeed offer a kinect-less xbox one. Although I understand where they are coming from, they want to get as much hype as they can about how much better xbox one is with the kinect. I would wager this idea has been around since hours after E3 and Microsoft has been trying to find the appropriate time to tell us. (and the confirmation about the Xbox possibly having a cheaper model, companies deny and “confirm” all sorts of stuff all the time and it turns out the complete opposite)

JawaEsteban

On August 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm

This sounds more like the MS PR dept fixing what could have been an enormous black eye before it got out of control. Somebody over there figured out that as incensed as the public is at the moment about goeverment intrusions on electronic privacy, the always-on kinect feature was probably one good CNN piece away from becoming a PR nightmare.

Derek

On August 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Great, now where is the cheaper model that doesn’t include kinect?

Kazoo

On August 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm

You mean the $399 one? Or… maybe the $349 one? ;)

fethski

On August 12, 2013 at 10:40 pm

@M.A.

If preorder numbers weren’t the issue then why force all these policies on people, claiming some of them were mandatory for reasons, only to reverse them later? I believe Mattrick leaving had to do with the fiasco of the XB1 reveal up to that point and maybe Zynga. If there hadn’t been the vast difference in reactions to the price reveal of the consoles, if most everybody except MS most ardent fanboys hadn’t been pooh-poohing the XB1, I think Mattrick would still be at MS and the polices would still be in place.

A company like MS just doesn’t suddenly reverse course like this, especially months before a major launch, without an a good reason financial or otherwise. My 2 cents of course.

Even being able to unplug teh kinect now I still have no desire to buy an XB1 until there’s a kinect free model available.

Lay de Bird

On August 13, 2013 at 2:55 am

The more this happens, the more I’m actually starting to think that Microsoft engineered this deliberately in order to look like (or at least advertise themselves as) the company that listens to its customers. It fact I wouldn’t be surprised if that was in Casey Hudson’s mind with ME3′s ending as well, though that’s probably a stretch as it suggests Hudson has the mental capacity to look beyond “durrr epic theamz controversy creatze ca$h doodz durrrr.” But I’m convinced there may be something to it as far as the Xbox One is concerned.

Think about it – nobody who is as secure and as confident in their product as Microsoft presumably was with the original Xbox One specs would just bow down to consumer pressure, no matter how much there was, if they really believed in what they were saying, particularly as their admitted target audience – obedient fantoys and unthinking casuals who apparently would assume the Xbox One was the better choice because it was more expensive – actually supported DRM/always-online/Kinect-required to the point where they started that ridiculous petition to get them reimplemented. Plus, as expected, they had OXM and most of the other mainstream outlets singing their praises and demanding that ‘entitled’ gamers were “dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century” or words to that effect. And then we’ve seen they even had a very, very negligible minority of defenders who actually work in games development, like that douche from Codemasters who seems to think that because we have the internet now there’s no need for any physical media whatsoever – kind of like saying there’s no need for planes anymore because we can use Skype and Google Street instead. If Microsoft truly thought what they were promoting was the way forward, they would not only have stuck to their guns about it, but they would have had a LOT of people backing them up. Instead, they acquiesced.

Politicians do this all the time when they want to implement an unpopular or confusing law – they come up with a plan that is so extreme they know it will never be accepted, then they ‘negotiate’ down with the opposing party (in this case the customer) until they reach an agreement that moreorless matches what the politicians wanted in the first place, but makes the other party feel like they’ve achieved something. The difference this time though is that, if my theory is correct, Microsoft is also banking on somehow looking like some sort of bastion of consumer relations at the end of this and winning back some of their customers that way. Conversely, Sony hasn’t budged on anything because it hasn’t had to – it got the product right the first time, or at least closer to being what its customers wanted than Microsoft. But ironically, with the advertising dollars Microsoft has at its disposal and its loyal press champions on hand to spin anything it does in a positive/deluded light, Sony’s efforts may end up counting against it.

I just hope that gamers aren’t gullible enough to think that this has anything to do with respecting customers. If I’m right with my theory (which let’s face it is still conjecture) then it’s a manipulative PR stunt; if I’m wrong then it’s still just a cynical damage limitation exercise from an increasingly-desperate company. Either way, don’t give them your time.

matthew s

On August 13, 2013 at 3:04 am

Wow…….

so all the things Microsoft said were necessary for the XB1 to work properly (Kinect, DRM, always online).
is not in fact the case.

im glad that the Kinect can be unplugged and if there is a Kinect free model eventually made available I would consider buying the console.

if Microsoft keep pulling 180′s at this rate they’ll start drilling a hole in their office floor.

Bercilak

On August 13, 2013 at 6:48 am

@Lay de Bird:

Well said. I think you may be giving Microsoft just a bit too much credit, though. They would’ve had to have known the extent of the public backlash to their draconian policies in order to bargain down to what they’d intended–and corporate-types tend to be far too risk averse to accept a strategy like that.

My best guess is that this entire marketing debacle is simply an instance of corporate bungling of an attempt to introduce a new product that most people never wanted in the first place (remember New Coke?).

Kazoo

On August 13, 2013 at 7:31 am

@Lay de Bird:

I don’t think so.

I believe that that particular tactic is a method to get people to agree to something they might not otherwise agree with to avoid something worse.

MS hasn’t done that. In fact, they’ve practically reversed themselves back to a console which is just an upgraded 360. Where are the new features? What’s now radically different.

Nothing. (Unless that was actually what they wanted, which I doubt).

MS isn’t done, and they aren’t really listening to the consumers. I think, if you polled them, that consumers liked the idea of a shared digital library, but they didn’t like being hamstrung into it. I think consumers like choice. We have choice today. If I purchase digital content (via Steam, Origin, etc.) then I can’t resell that game. But, it’s my choice. Sometimes I have other purchase avenues.

I think this particular back pedal is to get the consumer base to stop complaining about the Kinect and to be able to offer a lower priced XB1-only to compete more directly with the PS4.

Lay de Bird

On August 13, 2013 at 8:09 am

@Kazoo and Bercilak: you’re probably right. I just figure it’s a very minute possibility given how readily Microsoft has sold out on its own agenda when it could quite likely have rode the storm if they felt so strongly that what they were doing was the way forward.

Whatever the case though, I think we can all agree Microsoft has had an almost entirely fail-based marketing strategy for Xbox One.

Kazoo

On August 13, 2013 at 8:24 am

I’m not sure I agree that they had a fail-based strategy.

While I don’t like all the details, I do like the general direction they were heading. Essentially: Buy a game, play it anywhere. It’s just that doing that requires specific security features and some form of DRM.

The implementation was questionable, and they apparently underestimated the negative response (and really didn’t appear to consider the military at all).

Then they followed up with some really poorly thought out responses to critics and it all blew up. It surprises me, actually, how much their initial response to critics was similar to BW and ME3.

Shyfty

On August 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm

And now Devs get to go back to having to ensure they have Kinect and non-Kinect options for all of their games because the dumb asses are afraid the NSA gives a what happens in their living room.

Embarrassing for MSFT to have to keep taking steps back.

Kazoo

On August 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I think games needed non-Kinect options anyhow. Personally, I haven’t gotten into voice commands. I still prefer a controller.

I mean… take Tiger Woods ’14. It’s a lot of fun swinging, crouching to view your lie, but.. after a bit, it’s just takes too long.

Mike

On August 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Are you guys (Gamefront) going to explain what exactly is going on with Sony, the PS4, and yen manipulation at all? From all the talk it seems that Sony might just break even with the PS4 launch and not actually make any money. But that’s all I’m getting from those idiots at the Motley Fool, and I don’t trust their opinion or analysis at all (they still think PCs are on their death knell).

Bercilak

On August 14, 2013 at 11:35 am

And the corporate bungling continues:

http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2013/08/14/microsoft-reduces-xbox-one-launch-territories-from-21-to-13.aspx

Well played, Microsoft. Well played.

Ross

On August 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Would it be too much to ask for Microsoft to get at least a tiny amount of credit for listening to the consumer?