On May 14, 2014, Microsoft backtracked on another claim the company had previously made about the XBOX One when it announced that a Kinect-free version would be released. This new version will cost $100 less than the older version, due to the missing hardware. The lack of a Kinect means the new model of XBOX One will not have a built in microphone, will not be subject to voice commands, and won’t register movement. As of the announcement, only five games required Kinect, while another few dozen optionally used some feature of the Kinect. On face value the Kinect seems like a bad deal, but that simplified picture doesn’t tell the whole story. Read more for the pros and con of buying a Kinect-free XBOX Once.
Pro – Price – The Kinect-free version retails for $399, which is $100 less than the original model. In a market of $50 – $60 games, that $100 doesn’t go very far, but it does mean you can have two games instead of a peripheral you won’t be using. Obviously the price of the console, especially once you add in games, extra controllers, and possibly a subscription to XBOX Live, is quite expensive, but a discount is always nice.
Con – Social Games – If you only use your XBOX One to play single player or online multiplayer games, you won’t care. But if you like to use it as an entertainment option when people visit your home, the Kinect is all but mandatory. The few games that serve this purpose, like Just Dance 2014 and Kinect Sports Rivals, only work with a Kinect. Spending $100 on a Kinect is a much cheaper option than buying a Wii or Wii U, which is the other good choice for social games.
Pro – No Trolling – The Kinect is actually susceptible to a number of forms of subtle trolling. People in your home can give it orders or countermand your orders just to mess around with you. Some very creative players have even found ways to troll people online. One creative gamer used the gamer tag “Xbox Sign Out”, which caused players to accidentally start the sign out process after they got frustrated and yelled at the player. Without Kinect, all commands must be entered by a controller, which is a lot safer.
Con – No Microphone – Kinect is the built in microphone for XBOX One. You can get a peripheral that adds a microphone, but such a headset runs for about $40. In essence, if you want to talk to other people while online, you are only saving $60 by not getting a Kinect. Suddenly the Kinect looks like a lot better deal when you basically cut the price of it in half.
Pro – Fewer Tacked on Features – Since Kinect is no longer mandatory on every console, developers will feel less pressure to throw in unnecessary Kinect features, just to justify the peripheral. Some tacked on features are good, like the mini-games in Zoo Tycoon, but most games that throw in Kinect just allow some rather basic, meaningless voice commands. This development energy will better spent when the Kinect is no longer commonplace and you won’t feel like you wasted money when Kinect features become less common.
Con – Controller Limitations – There are certain types of games that almost never appear on a console. Real time strategy games are a perfect example of this. Real time strategy games practically demand the speed and fine control of a mouse. With voice commands and the ability to track arm movements, the Kinect could easily replicate the advantage of a mouse for games that all but require one. And that is the rub to a Kinect-free XBOX One. These games that suddenly have a chance to flourish in a console world may never be released. And, if they are released, you won’t get a chance to play them or won’t enjoy them as much if you don’t own a Kinect. The good news, at least, is the Kinect peripheral will be sold for $100 if some game makes you change your mind.