Microsoft recently announced the launch of an Xbox One without the Kinect accessory as standard, which is set to become available from the 9th June 2014. The company appears to have finally made the decision to unbundle the Kinect from the console following numerous customer complaints around why the camera was a pre-requisite in the first place.
Many will be asking themselves whether this latest offer is good value at the adjusted price and also what impact the removal of the Kinect camera will have on their gaming experience. So I decided to delve into this and here are my findings.
The cost of the standalone Xbox One console:
This will be priced at $499 in Australia, USD$399 in the US and £349 (AUD$628) in the UK. It is effectively a $100 deduction from the entry-level price and also now makes it cheaper than the rival PS4.
When the original Xbox One was launched it was priced at $50 more than rival Sony's PS4 console. The impact of this higher price clearly being reflected in last month's release of sales figures showing that 5 million Xbox One consoles had been sold globally versus 7 million PS4's since their respective launches. It's still early days, but it will interesting to see what console-game bundle offers retailers start promoting this winter, as this will give give a clearer indication of the value you're getting when purchasing the standalone Xbox One console.
Right now there are already retailers - such as EB Games and JB Hifi - who are taking pre-orders on the Kinect-less console and bundling it with a download token for Forza Motorsport 5 at $499. Also, don't forget that any of you with older version consoles will have the possibility of trading them in at EB Games to get store credit towards a new Xbox One standalone console (or games). If you're an EB World member, then you'll also have the option of using any trade credits and vouchers in your account towards pre-orders as well.
Whichever retailer you decide to purchase one from, I recommend always first checking Buckscoop's Vouchers page to see if there are any coupons/vouchers available for extra discounts.
How will a Kinect-less console affect your gaming experience?
With only a few games making use of the new Kinect in any recommendable way, the sensor had been seen by many as an unnecessary extra cost with little immediate benefits. The best example of this is Xbox One’s most prominent game, Titanfall, which doesn’t make use of the Kinect functionality at all.
On the plus side, as the Xbox One's architecture reserves CPU power for the Kinect, its removal could free up processing power for developers to make use of. Should noticeable improvements in performance become apparent in new games, this would definitely be an aspect that would sway gamers towards the now less entertainment-media like Xbox One.
What you would be losing out on without the Kinect sensor attached, apart from the supporting games, is certain home entertainment features such as changing channels on your TV and AV gear. Or would you really? Some of this functionality still hasn't been made available in Australia yet, so it's not as if something is now being taken away. In terms of the loss of voice command features, Microsoft is said to be considering enabling the use of headsets to do the job. This again would make the Kinect accessory even less of a necessity.
One aspect that the Kinect's removal will have a positive impact on, is to alleviate the fears which many Xbox fans originally had surrounding privacy issues. This was in relation to having an always-on sensor recording camera and audio information about you in your own home day and night.
How much will you actually be saving with the Xbox One standalone console?
The original Xbox One Kinect-included console came bundled together with Titanfall as well as a one month Xbox Live Gold membership for a total of around $599 (e.g. Dick Smith, Target, and JB HiFi). So as a comparison, if you were to now purchase the Kinect-less console and Titanfall separately, which appears to be selling for between $68 and $89.99 at most stores, you'd be spending at least $567. This effectively gives you a saving of $32 compared with the original console bundle that included this game.
Until now you also needed to pay for an Xbox Live Gold membership at annual cost of $55. Membership was required to access Netflix, Hulu, YouTube etc, which carried their own costs separately in addition. But from June, however, Microsoft will drop the requirement for an Xbox Live paid membership to access third party apps. The advantage of having a Gold membership will most likely benefit those most who frequently download the monthly free game promos and take advantage of gold-discounts on other titles.
In the end, while there are definitely savings to be made, I think the main thing that customers/Xbox fans will be most pleased about is seeing Microsoft listening and taking into account what they've had to say. Having the option now to choose a Kinect-less console as well as decide whether or not you'd like to signup for an Xbox Live Gold membership are certainly aspects which will no doubt make this gaming platform a lot more appealing to a wider range of players.