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1080p? Dropping Kinect could lead to Xbox One performance boost

"We are in discussions with our game publishers about what we might do in this space," Microsoft says.

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Dropping Kinect from the Xbox One was good news for fans who wanted a less expensive model to purchase, but Microsoft's decision to make the camera optional could have other benefits as well. Microsoft representatives said in media interviews this week that removing Kinect from the bundle could free up processing power that could in turn lead to increased graphical performance.

"We are in discussions with our game publishers about what we might do in this space and we will have more to talk about soon," Microsoft executive Yusuf Mehdi told Polygon.

For the current $499 Xbox One, some portion of the system's processing power is dedicated to Kinect. A report from Digital Foundry concluded that the Xbox One reserves 10 percent of its total graphics resources for Kinect and app functionality. In an interview with Kotaku, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said developers have told him they want to squeeze as most juice out of the console as possible, and the new Kinect-free Xbox One could be a way to do so.

"I know that developers want to get every bit of functionality out of the box that they can," Spencer said. "In conversations I'm having with our partners, that's something that's come up. We need to land the right plan there so that we've ticked off all the boxes to make sure we understand all of the long-term ramifications, but you bring up an idea and a workstream that we're focused on that makes a ton of sense. It's just about when we're ready to make those kinds of calls."

It remains to be see how Microsoft's engineers would go about such a measure, or what it would mean for the existing $499 model, which Microsoft will continue to sell.

A boost in system performance would help lessen the perception that the Xbox One is a technically inferior console compared to the rival PlayStation 4. Right now, it's not uncommon for Xbox One versions of multiplatform games to run at a lower resolution compared to the PS4 version. Just yesterday, Ubisoft confirmed that the PS4 version of Watch Dogs would run at a higher resolution than the Xbox One version, and that's hardly the first example.

The new $399 Xbox One goes on sale June 9--the same day as Microsoft's E3 2014 press conference.

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