I am the first to admit that I was not a fan of the Xbox One when it was first talked about early last year, the issues surrounding the original announcement have been well documented, but now six months after launch and with what feels like a complete 180 over nearly every feature and idea they originally talked about and Microsoft might finally be on the right track with the console. Focusing on what the public might actually have wanted to buy, an entertainment unit priced reasonably.
Some people have said that the biggest issue they had with the original Xbox One announcement was the bundling of Kinect 2.0. It clearly bumped the consoles pricing up high and was always an accessory that many people rarely used after the first few months of purchasing the original version on the 360.
I never really enjoyed the original Kinect, but I have stated this in the past. The problem seemed to lie with the lack of many decent Kinect games, lack of space in gamer's houses and a hardware based controller which could have added more “hardcore” gamer options rather than regressive hand gesture controls we seem to be getting now.
This never really changed with Kinect 2.0 either, games were non-existent and Kinect Sports Rivals, the one big Kinect release that was planned was the expected flop which has all but ended any chance of Rare ever making a game again, especially after the announcement of layoffs at the company last week. Another issue was voice control was still never 100% accurate and if you are using that as your main control method, it had to be. Heck my console rarely launched with the “Xbox On” command something that should have been spot on.
Microsoft must have known that bundling Kinect 2.0 was a huge risk, but they were adamant that it was their plan all along, especially with their push for voice control of the entire Xbox One UI. Yet they have completely reversed that decision, adding that a future update for the Xbox One will allow far better UI controls via the gamepad rather than Kinect, something that should have been there from the beginning anyway. Microsoft even had plans to integrate Kinect into the Xbox One during development, something I am glad they didn't go ahead with, otherwise we may have had an even longer wait for a kinect-less version.
It has also been well documented that Kinect 2.0 takes up some GPU and CPU time which could and should have been optional for developers. Removing the requirement of having Kinect attached to the console frees up this extra power for developers to not only improve their games, but also attempt to reach the PR important 1080p gaming that PlayStation 4 users are enjoying. I have to admit that as soon as Microsoft's said Kinect will be removed from the Xbox One, I removed it from mine knowing that I will no longer need it.
Removing Kinect 2.0 from the Xbox One isn’t the only improvements that Microsoft have announced over the past months. The early price-cut wasn’t much of a surprise to many people, trying to sell a less powerful console at a much higher price was always a risk and when you already have negative public response to nearly everything that Microsoft announced you are facing a losing battle.
Dropping Kinect and the price will help Microsoft no end, although I still feel that it needs to be priced less than the PlayStation 4 simply due to being less powerful and that will make a big difference to public perception.
Another major change that has been a long time coming is Microsoft’s revamp of their Xbox Live Gold package. The Xbox One will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold subscription for you to access apps like Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go and more. You also won’t need to subscribe to use apps like Skype, Internet Explorer or the OneGuide. These changes are what users have been hoping would happen for some time.
Xbox Live Gold will also now add free games into the mix each month, starting out with the excellent Max: Curse of the Brotherhood and the iffy Halo: Spartan Assault. The free games offer has worked wonders on the PlayStation 3 and 4 and it is great to see Microsoft finally realise what a good thing this is for subscribers.
The upcoming June update for the Xbox One will also add an option for a user to auto-login to the console, at the moment you either have to do it via Kinect’s iffy recognition which can take some time or via a few button presses, either way it is something again they should have got right in the first place.
Microsoft are heading the right way though, especially with their regular monthly updates which not only add new features, but also fix or improve existing ones. The biggest change for Microsoft is that they are finally listening to the public. The public were always vocal about not wanting Kinect bundled with the console, about automatic logins and other features that are now appearing. This change for Microsoft will bring a lot of good feeling from gamers and fans of the company alike.
The next big push from Microsoft will come at E3 – they need games now, even more so after the lacklustre sales of Titanfall, which was previously expected to be a catalyst for sales of the Xbox One and that just hasn’t happened. It is hard to predict what will happen in the future for the Xbox One, but let’s hope the wait is well worth it. The company are listening to you and that is one of the most important things they can do.