The Xbox One launches in just three months. What's Microsoft to do to clean up all the bad PR its had since its whole anti-used games/always connected online fiasco? Besides unboxing the console early, Microsoft has made yet another complete flip on its Xbox One policies.
After much backlash from gamers and paranoid privacy lobbyists, Microsoft's nixed the next-gen Kinect as a requirement for the Xbox One to function. In an "Ask Microsoft Anything" installment on IGN, Mark Whitten, the Xbox One platform's chief architect calmed fanboys and fangirls across the planet:
"…like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor."
When asked how "off" can the Kinect be, Whitten replied:
"You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue."
So there you have it, you worry wart. If you don't want Kinect, you can turn it off completely without crippling the Xbox One. Because, god forbid it records you in your underoos while drinking Red Bull on a Call of Duty marathon and sends it to the U.S. government.
All jokes aside, there are two camps to the Kinect debate. On the one hand, not requiring Kinect will severely limit the motion camera's robust features that developers could work with, since not everyone would be required to have it on. On the other hand — well, all that privacy stuff.
Frankly, I'm in the pro-Kinect camp. (Kotaku nails the reason why.) Maybe I'm just used to cameras always potentially watching me. I'm looking around my house and I see cameras on almost every electronic I own: tablet, iPhone, laptop, HDTV.
Still, it's great that Microsoft is giving Xbox One owners choice. In the end, the buyers will vote with their wallets and Microsoft knows it can't afford to anger them. But there's still one more thing that will irk buyers: Kinect is still included with every Xbox One. Microsoft isn't selling a standalone Xbox One console (at least it hasn't announced one yet) that doesn't include a Kinect sensor. So, if you're planning to buy an Xbox One at launch, you'll still be forced to buy the $499 console and Kinect bundle, even if you don't plan to use the motion sensor.
In that regard, Sony's PS4 still has the upper hand, as the PlayStation Camera ($69) will be sold separately from the standard console ($399).