Microsoft announced a $399 version of the Xbox One sans Kinect today--bringing it in line with the current sales frontrunner PlayStation 4. And even without an Xbox Live Gold membership, Xbox owners will finally be able to access entertainment apps like Netflix and Hulu.
The comments for those stories, and our interview with Xbox boss Yusuf Mehdi, are a minefield of dissenting opinions, and the GameSpot offices are no different. Was this the right move for Microsoft and will it be enough to give them the edge on the PS4?
Edward Makuch - Fan Dialogue
The unbundling of Xbox One with Kinect is not only meaningful because it brings the system on par with Sony's PlayStation 4 from a price perspective but also because it shows Microsoft is continuing to listen to fans. Not that you needed a reason to doubt Microsoft's willingness to do so. The unbundling of Kinect is the second dramatic reversal for the Xbox One in under a year, following the company's decision to do away with many controversial policies last summer after fans spoke out in protest.
When I asked Microsoft's Albert Penello in August 2013 if he thought the Xbox One's then-$100 price premium over the PS4 would be a deal-breaker for some, he shrugged his shoulders and said no. What a different--and encouraging--narrative we're hearing today. Today's news should help Xbox One sales pick up, and it couldn't come sooner. At 5 million units shipped, the Xbox One is lagging behind the PS4 (7 million) and the Wii U (6.17 million) in the worldwide sales race. If Microsoft's E3 2014 showing next month is strong (and they say it will be), it, coupled with the price drop, might serve as a one-two punch that could turn the tides in the battle for the living room.
Kevin VanOrd - The True Value of the Xbox
I've often said this about games, but it applies to consoles, consumer electronics, and most other products as well: "value" is more than just how much something costs. For instance, when shopping for a new television, I'm not looking for the least expensive television--I'm shopping for the best value based on my perception of what's important. Does it have 3D capabilities? What's the refresh rate? Does it have built-in support for YouTube, Netflix, and so forth? What other features does it have, and how do they improve my viewing experience? If I perceive additional value, I don't mind spending a little bit more.
Microsoft's problem is not price--it's value. You can, of course, improve an object's value by reducing its price, but from the very beginning, Microsoft impressed upon us that Kinect was a vital part of the Xbox One experience, but they did so without assigning any real value to the Kinect. It's difficult to convince the average consumer that the ability to speak to a console or navigate an interface without a controller is a substantial improvement over using a gamepad or a remote control. In fact, Kinect's reputation for fiddly, imprecise controls had likely convinced consumers that the new Kinect wasn't worth the trouble.
That meant that it was up to the games to give value to the Kinect. And I think we all know how well that's gone.
Considering the upcoming Kinect-less Xbox One sells for $100 less, it's now impossible not to see the Kinect as the sole reason for the console's premium price--and it’s impossible not to assume that Kinect was so unimportant to Microsoft that it reversed course in a matter of months. Now the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One share a price, it's up to Microsoft to convince a skeptical public that it offers the better value, something it never did when Kinect was included. Given the company's mixed messaging, which was apparent from the moment the Xbox One was announced, I'm not sure Microsoft is up for the challenge, though that’s a story for another day.
Thomas Mc Shea - Losing its Uniqueness
What is Microsoft's vision for the Xbox One? If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have answered that it was a console designed to be everything to everyone, a walled-garden entertainment box that could seamlessly switch between every piece of software we use on a daily basis. But now? Now that Microsoft has pushed Kinect to the wayside and pulled a U-turn on their always-connected ideals? Now the Xbox One doesn't have an identity.
I appreciate when companies listen to the needs of consumers, and chopping $100 off the price of the console is certainly a good thing. However, I do wonder what their long-term strategy is. We know that the PlayStation 4 is designed to play the most technically advanced games outside of the PC with tons of independent fare, and we know the Wii U offers a family-friendly oasis with a controller that offers much more flexibility than we're used to. After Microsoft has turned their back on everything that separated the Xbox One from its competitors, though, it seems like a ship without a captain.
I expect Microsoft to gain traction in the short term because price drops open a door previously locked to the money-conscious public. But how long can that excitement last? Without a strong vision shaping what the Xbox One is, Microsoft is going to keep fighting for relevance as they struggle to define what a next-generation system should be.
Justin Haywald - On the Right Track
I've discussed the importance of price for the Xbox One before, and giving Microsoft's console price parity is not only great news for consumers, it's a necessary move to keep the Xbox One going. Considering the Kinect had the potential for creating experiences you wouldn't be able to have on other systems, it's a little sad the peripheral has to be cut. But we really haven't seen anything that made having the Kinect necessary, and it was ultimately just hurting the Xbox One price point.
More interesting is that this announcement is coming pre-E3. This is a bombshell, center-stage announcement, and Microsoft is getting it out of the way well ahead of their press conferences in a few weeks. What that seems to say is that not only is their show going to focus on games (not on hardware or their Xbox-exclusive entertainment properties), but that Microsoft feels the games they have to announce are more than enough to dominate the show on their own.
I hope that Microsoft continues to incentivize developers to use the Kinect tech in unique ways and that they can turn around the perception that it's not a worthwhile investment. Regardless, these are the kinds of sweeping changes Microsoft needed to enact to make sure that they stand a chance at beating the PS4. Now, what do Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have in store for E3? I can't remember the last time I was this excited for the show.
|You've read our thoughts, now let us know what you think in the comments below. Is this the announcement that's finally going to get the Xbox One ahead of the PS4?|