Microsoft made a series of announcements today concerning the Xbox One and Xbox Live, including the sale of a Kinect-less Xbox One, new Games With Gold, and free media app usage for both Gold and free Xbox Live members on both systems.
When it was announced just about a year ago on Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus, the Xbox One was a somewhat polarizing topic amongst gamers. That polarization was further compounded by Microsoft’s E3 presentation the following month, when they announced release information and pricing for their latest addition to the Xbox console series.
$499. An undoubtedly hefty price tag to ask consumers to pay for new hardware, especially when one particular component inside the box was something that some gamers weren’t even sure they wanted. Although Microsoft ensured people publicly that the Kinect sensor was to be an “important part” of the establishment of the new console, rumors continued to persist that in the near future, it would be sold without the Kinect sensor. After a lot of back-and-forth among the gaming community, today Microsoft announced that it would begin selling the Xbox One console without the Kinect sensor starting in June, at the suggested retail price of $399.
This will certainly prove to be an interesting development to watch, since removing Kinect and $100 from the asking price of the Xbox One will put it in a better position to compete with Sony’s PlayStation 4, which has cost $399 since its launch on November 15th. Although a fair amount of features will leave the console with the Kinect (the biggest of which is voice control for a number of tasks, along with video calling, QR code scanning for redemption of games and DLC, and biometric sign-in), there are still a number of distinctive features the console has without the use of Kinect, including its ability to manage your cable box, the onboard “OneGuide,” snapping apps for multitasking, and instant switching between games and other media apps or live TV.
So far, the PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One in worldwide sales by about 2 million units (PS4’s at 7 million, Xbox One’s at 5 million), so the ability to come down to the same pricing level may help to make the playing field a bit more level between the two consoles. Microsoft did also say that they will be selling the Kinect sensor as a separate peripheral similarly to how they do with the Xbox 360, but it won’t be arriving until this fall.
In our Xbox One review entry focusing on the Kinect sensor, we found that its presence largely enhanced the experience of using the Xbox One, particularly with its ability to instantly sign you in, along with the immense amount of flexibility provided by using voice commands (which has only gotten better since the console’s launch through updates).
That wasn’t the only announcement Microsoft made in regards to the new console, though. In addition to selling a Kinect-less version of he Xbox One, Microsoft is also expanding its “Games With Gold” program from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, offering two free games every month for people with an Xbox Live Gold subscription beginning next month. While Games With Gold on Xbox 360 allows you to keep a game whether or not you remain a Gold member after downloading, on Xbox One it’s going to work identically to Sony’s PlayStation Plus service on the PS3 and PS4: you get to keep the game for as long as you’re subscribed to the premium service.
The current structure of the program will remain in place on Xbox 360, while Gold members can begin downloading the offerings on Xbox One on June 1st, which will be Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and the console re-release of Halo: Spartan Assault. To celebrate one year of Games With Gold, Xbox 360 users will get a third game instead of the usual two, with the June offerings being Dark Souls, Charlie Murder, and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition.
Perhaps the biggest announcement, though, is that Microsoft will finally be removing the so-called “pay-wall” between the use of media apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus. Starting next month, Xbox Live free users will be able to stream movies and TV shows from their favorite media apps without having to be an Xbox Live Gold member, a long-asked for feature that will likely make the decision to go Xbox a lot easier for people knowing that they don’t have to pay extra to enjoy services they already have.
What do you think? Will these changes allow Xbox One to be more competitive with the PS4? Sound off below, and check out Microsoft’s infographic about the changes below!
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