For the past couple of months or so, I've been very anti-MS, but in the wake of yesterday's good news, I feel good enough to write something positive about MS now, even daring. I'm going to be defending the Kinect 2.0.
Xbox One is now region free. There are no longer DRM restrictions on used games. Most importantly, the system will no longer require a 24 hour connection check. Major deal breakers have gone away, but there's still one major hang up that a lot of people have with the Xbox One. Kinect 2.0
I think people are forgetting articles like this one.
A post on Xbox Wire explains that if you dont want the Kinect sensor on while playing games or enjoying your entertainment, you can pause Kinect. Essentially Kinect will not be forced upon players, but it will have to be actively turned off.
That's right. You can turn it off. If you don't want Kinect tracking your every movement while playing a game or watching a movie, you can turn it off. Granted, you'll have to make a conscious commitment to turn off the Kinect 2.0, but if you can remember to do so, you can enjoy your console without fear of Big Brother.
"But the Xbox One is always listening!" Is it?
When the system is off, its only listening for the single voice command Xbox On This feature can be turned off as well. Some apps and games may require Kinect functionality to operate, so youll need to turn it back on for these experiences, said Microsoft.
That's right, even though its standard standby option is to listen for that one key phrase, you can actually turn Kinect 2.0 off completely, even when the system is off. And, if your paranoia is getting the better of you, can you simply unplug the Kinect from the Xbox One, or better yet unplug the entire system.
"Xbox, turn Kinect off!"
"But it records my face and heartbeat and junk while I watch things!" Valid concern. Indeed it does, but remember this:
The platform holder also said that personal data stored on Xbox One and picked up by Kinect, like videos, photos, facial expressions and even your heart rate, will not leave your Xbox One without your explicit permission.
So, whatever Kinect 2.0 picks up on, you can keep it from leaving the Xbox One. If you don't want your personal data and your emotional responses shared, simply don't allow it. If you have no problem with companies acquiring data that you feel is harmless to collect, you can let them have it. Now, I also understand the concern that Xbox One will secretely submit that information the next time it connects. Although that sounds a little conspiracist to me, here's the beautiful part. Since the Xbox One no longer requires the internet to function as a gaming console, you don't have to worry about that anymore, even if were true. Just keep the Xbox One offline. And well, even if they were secretely submitting information, that would be a scandal that MS simply doesn't want to deal with right now. They're already under a large enough microscope.
"But the military deems it a threat!"
I was trying to find that article the Navy Times wrote about the Kinect 2.0 invading military privacy, but it appears to have been retracted. Even so, that was a valid concern, which is now rendered useless due to the fact that Xbox One no longer requires a check in. Even if it did, the option to turn the Kinect 2.0 off is still there, and could be ordered by bases to be kept off.
Also, there's this on going bill called We Are Watching You Act. If this passes, this is only good news. It would mandate that anything the Kinect 2.0 does that tracks your info in anyway will need to be disclosed to you. You'd either be able to say "No thanks." or simply stop using the app or service or even the Kinect 2.0 itself. You also need to remember that we've been recorded before. For example, when you call in to a call center, you're given a prompt saying "We may be recording this conversation for training purposes" or something akin to it. If you have no problem with it, they listen. If you don't want the conversation recorded, you can tell them no, or could just hang the phone up. Even websites that require membership disclose the fact that they might share your information, or at least give you a chance to opt out. Being transparent is something that I think is in Microsoft's best interest here, and they should convey this with their customers immediately before this bill even passes.
"But if I can turn it off, why the hell am I REQUIRED to have it connected to the Xbox One?"
Ah. That's the:
Why DO you need to have Kinect 2.0 connected to the Xbox One in order for the console to work? Could it be the same reason that Sony's PS3 had an advantage over the 360 by having an HDD as a requirement so developers knew every console had it and could plan for it? That's my theory. Now, developers know that Kinect 2.0 exists with every Xbox One, and they can make features for their games that will utilize it. It will be a deciding factor for which version of a multiplatform title a gamer will buy. If they like Kinect, they'll go for the Xbox One. I'm also sure that developers will still use the standard controller, but now Kinect can play an important optional and supplemental role in gamers looking for and accepting new ways to play.
"But dammit, I don't want to pay an extra 100 dollars for a bundled in accessory I'll never use!"
I'll concede there. THAT sucks. The fact that there's no Xbox One bundle without Kinect 2.0 is a mistake. But you know what? That's only a problem for you if you want one right away. You don't need to pay 500 dollars for a console at launch. You can wait for a price drop. You can wait for a sale. You can buy a used one. You can... steal one (although I'm not condoning such behavior). The thing that you need to keep in mind here that makes the 500 dollar price point far less egregious than a 24 hour connection check is that it doesn't prevent you from playing it when you obtain it. It only inconviences your ability to buy it exactly when you want it. Also keep in mind that there are benefits to wait for the price to come down. You'll most likely avoid the first couple waves of hardware failures, and your available library will have filled itself out. Also... you could just spend that time waiting by playing the PS4. :P
I'm writing this because I feel that amongst the storm of such bad press, there are so many gamers out there who have simply lost focus on that very important ability to turn off the Kinect 2.0. None of those security and privacy concerns should bother you. If you're bothered by the fact that it's packed in and you don't want to pay extra for something you're not going to use, again, you can wait for the price to drop, or for MS to come out with a Kinect-less SKU.
"But...but... STAR WARS!"
... You got me there.
BREAKING: Kinect may not be required after all. Mind you, this is rumored. If true, this is huge, fantastic news for all those worried about their privacy. If true, people can simply just unplug it and the Xbox One will continue to work. However, the bundle will still cost 500 dollars, but could we see a Kinect-less Xbox One at 100 less? MS would be nuts not to do this. This would put them right back on a level playing field with Sony.
UPDATED: I should have figured it was too good to be true. Rumor denied. BOO-URNS!