“U-turn if you want to, the lady’s not for turning” – Margaret Thatcher
Almost one year ago Microsoft were the Iron Lady, Maggie Thatcher. They stood resiliently by their console, pleading their case for a gaming machine with Kinect, a console with no backwards compatibility, a console that would always be on and had to be permanently connected to the internet. They stood and stared in the faces of friend and foe alike and told us that this was the way it was going to be, no exceptions. We could turn if we wanted to, but Microsoft were not for turning. Nowadays it’s more like watching Nick Clegg. They promised us that they wouldn’t increase tuition fees (remove the Kinect), but here we are, just one year later and tuition fees have more than doubled (Xbox have removed the Kinect). For those of you outside of the EU or Great Britain, you probably won’t be getting these references. But, I’ll leave the references at this. A few years ago I (and I’m not proud to admit it) voted for the Lib Dems, swept off of my feet by Clegg’s false promises. Now, all of a sudden, those feelings of betrayal are welling up inside me again. I purchased that Xbox One with Kinect for over £100 more than they’re selling it without, last November. I believed Microsoft when they said that the Kinect was here to stay. Now, I’m not so sure.
It’s been almost half a year since the Xbox One was released and, so far, Kinect dependant games have been few and far between. Kinect Sports Rivals made as big a splash as a size zero model bombing into a swimming pool, whilst the other Kinect games (Fighter Within and Xbox Fitness) were about as exciting as a damp flannel being waved about by a stuffy old professor whilst he recites his M&S shopping list in Old English. Boring, no? Now that the Kinect has been removed from the bundle, the prospects of it getting some decent (or just some) games is looking pretty slim. So I ask, what will I do with my Kinect?
Well, you might not know this, though I am assuming that you’re reading as an innocent bystander rather than an Xbox One owner, but the Kinect is good for more than just gaming. I use my Kinect every day, for at least an hour a day. That’s because it is, for me at least, a priceless bit of kit for navigating the menus of my Xbox One. The voice commands are clear and precise and they prove invaluable for making your way between games, movies, videos, TV, video-streaming services, apps, settings, music … the list goes on. With just one word, ‘Xbox’, a whole world of opportunities open up before you. ‘Xbox, go to Netflix’, Netflix will boot up almost instantly and you’ll have a whole fountain of video content at your fingertips … or your liptips? That sounds weird. Anywhoo, the Kinect is my favourite part of the Xbox One, hardware wise, at least. And now, thousands of people will be missing out on it.
Sure, last November if you had told me that I could get the Xbox One for £100 cheaper I would have forgotten about the Kinect almost instantly. Now, however, it would be pretty tough to break up with the little bugger. It’s like having a robotic friend in your room that helps you reach peak entertainment. It gives the Xbox One personality. I will actually thank it when it successfully completes a task, like recording some gameplay footage. And I’ll chastise it by calling it a prick if it doesn’t do what I say. It’s kind of like having an intelligent, one dimensional dog. Most of the time it will do what you say, but occasionally it’ll ignore you, because it’s in a mood or it has done something naughty. But it’s less cuddly … though it doesn’t bark or chew your slippers … or piss on your carpet. If somebody said to me “here, mate. I’ll give you one hundred quid for your Kinect”, I’d probably reply “I’m good!”. If they offered me £200 I’d maybe consider it, but for now, I love the Kinect and not much will change that.
I say not much will change that love. It depends heavily on where Microsoft go from here. If they start to drop Kinect support, if they don’t bother to improve it with patches and don’t try to sort some decent games for it, it will go the way of the Eye Toy. And everyone remembers how that turned out. If they keep up with the support, listen to consumer feedback and find some decent titles for the tech, I’ll be one happy bunny. I’m just worried that the Kinect could loose support, mainly because new Xbox One adopters are going to be pretty unlikely to purchase the bundle with Kinect. Especially considering how few decent games there are that really rely on the tech to succeed.
So, in the title of this article I posed the question, ‘Can a Kinectless Xbox One turn the tides for the console?’, but there is no simple answer. To me, it depends about what you count as ‘turning the tides’. If turning the tides means selling more consoles, then yes, a Kinectless Xbox One will definitely sell better. But if you’re all about the experience, about entertainment and greater connectivity, then I think the answer will probably be no. The Kinect makes the Xbox One unique. It helps create this One aspect of home entertainment, it cements you in the experience and integrates you into your home media. Without the Kinect, it’s just a worse PS4. Let’s face it. The PS4 can do pretty much the same things as the Xbox One, just slightly better (at the moment, at least. I mean, otherwise why would Microsoft be underselling Sony and why would they have had to remove the Kinect? I’m of course not talking about the games because that’s not necessarily down to Microsoft. I’m talking about the power of the machine and the little things, like the fact that the PS4 has 1080p down and devs on the Xbox One are still struggling). The difference is that there was real potential with the Kinect. If Microsoft has lost sight of that potential, then I really worry for the future of my console.
But hey, that’s just my opinion. Maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you, like a good number of my friends, couldn’t care less about the Kinect. Maybe you’d be happy to see it go ‘full Eye Toy’. All I know for certain is that I’m intrigued to see where Microsoft go from here. E3 better be good!