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Why the Kinect-less Xbox One signals the death of Microsoft's grand console ambitions

Hayden Dingman | May 15, 2014
On Tuesday, Microsoft finally, truly smothered its dreams for the Xbox One. Lofty ambitions and powerful technology, all laid to rest at the feet of indifferent gamers, sacrificial lambs slaughtered in an attempt to fix the horribly broken narrative surrounding Microsoft's next-gen gaming console.

xbox one

On Tuesday, Microsoft finally, truly smothered its dreams for the Xbox One. Lofty ambitions and powerful technology, all laid to rest at the feet of indifferent gamers, sacrificial lambs slaughtered in an attempt to fix the horribly broken narrative surrounding Microsoft's next-gen gaming console.

Flash back to a year ago. I was sitting on a couch at 2:30 in the morning, exhausted from running around all day at the E3 gaming expo, when I saw the now-infamous interview between then-Xbox head Don Mattrick and Geoff Keighley.

"Fortunately, we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of [Internet] connectivity—it's called the Xbox 360," said Mattrick, a smug grin across his face.

Watching Mattrick bust out that line was like watching someone pull the pin on a grenade and then drop it at their own feet. It was gutsy in all the wrong ways—the type of business-corporate garbage people already expected from Mattrick, who with his plastered-on smile had all the robotic charm of Tom Cruise onstage.

But there was no denying Microsoft had a vision for the Xbox One. A vision few gamers really wanted, sure, but it was a vision the Xbox team had spent years putting together. And by golly, they were sticking to it.

Until suddenly they weren't.

Xbox One-Eighty
On Tuesday Microsoft announced an Xbox One freed from the shackles of the Kinect, its $100 pack-in camera that was arguably the core of the entire Xbox One experience. With the announcement, the Xbox One will match the PlayStation 4 in price ($399) starting June 9.

People celebrated, and why shouldn't they? While those who bought an Xbox One with Kinect often tout the benefits, Microsoft has yet to provide a compelling use case to skeptics. With the PS4 rapidly pulling ahead in sales figures every month, Microsoft needs a Hail Mary to save the Xbox One. Maybe this is it.

And yet there's the old saying: "You can pull the Xbox out of the Kinect, but you can't pull the Kinect out of the Xbox." Everything—and I mean everything—on the Xbox One was designed with Kinect in mind. You turn it on with Kinect. You turn it off with Kinect. You navigate menus with Kinect. You search with Kinect. You (supposedly) play games with Kinect.

Kinect was it. Kinect was the small, dumb plot of land Microsoft staked its claim on. Have you ever tried navigating the Xbox One without the Kinect, using a controller like some sort of old-fashioned peasant? Of course you have, because the Xbox One's Kinect is still not the best piece of hardware, and it bugs out and makes everything a bit more cumbersome than it should be.

 

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