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No Longer Kinected

Microsoft’s decision to ditch the Kinect makes business sense

No Longer Kinected © 2017 Microsoft

When it comes to design, it doesn’t hurt to have some vision, but in Microsoft’s case, it seems to have an excess of it, and it’s hurting their bottom line. When Microsoft announced the release of the next-generation Xbox One console, it promised that each one would ship accompanied by the Kinect motion control peripheral. This it promised would enable a wide range of gesture-based gaming possibilities, and would represent a truly futuristic gaming experience.

The decision to include the Kinect with every Xbox One was undertaken to avoid the chicken-or-the-egg scenario where developers wouldn’t make use of the Kinect in their games, as no one owned it, and users wouldn’t buy it, as there were no appealing games. Furthermore, it provided the Xbox One with a significant point of difference against its direct competitor, the Sony PS4.

Microsoft has overestimated its user’s willingness to accept new ideas.

Now it seems however, that Microsoft is backpedaling . In a similar way to the botched rollout of the Windows 8 Modern interface, it would appear that Microsoft has overestimated its user’s willingness to accept new ideas. Just as Windows users were unwilling to move away from a familiar mouse/keyboard friendly layout, Xbox gamers have been unenthusiastic in their uptake of Kinect enabled games, preferring the handheld controller which remains the mainstay of major gaming releases.

Realising this, Microsoft announced in a statement, that they would begin giving customers “more options”, including, importantly, the ability to buy a Xbox One console without Kinect. The new package will retail at 400 USD, positioning the console at an almost identical price point to the PS4 which sells at 399USD. The company was of course quick to deny that it was abandoning the Kinect platform, saying in a statement that:

To be clear, as we introduce this new Xbox One console option, Kinect remains an important part of our vision. [...] We will continue to offer a premium Xbox One with Kinect bundle to deliver voice and gesture controls, biometric sign-in, instant personalization, instant scanning of QR codes, and enhanced features only available with Kinect…

Microsoft then goes on to say that customers will be able to buy the device separately to the Xbox, and an unannounced date in the future. Regardless of Microsoft’s plans for Kinect, it obviously is no longer the integral part of the Xbox One system which it was previously. But perhaps this decision was what was necessary to save the overall Xbox One console.

To date its sales have been underwhelming, despite high profile and well reviewed exclusive released such as Titanfall. In addition, most experts believe that a disproportionate amount of the hardware costs of the system were tied up in Kinect, and so by removing it from the package, Microsoft will be able to increase the amount of profit that it can make on each console sold. With this in mind, it makes significant business sense for Microsoft to put less emphasis on Kinect. At some point, Microsoft needed to cut its losses, swallow its pride, and put the wishes of its customers above its lofty visions.  That time seems to have finally come.

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