Microsoft has announced it will release a version of the Xbox One without the currently included Kinect sensor for $399 on June 9, the company announced today.
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox unit, announced the move in a post on Xbox Wire, saying the move was made to deliver "more choices" to fans of the console. Currently, an Xbox One console can only be purchased for $499 with a bundled Kinect sensor.
"There's a lot about Kinect that I really love," Spencer said in a video released on Xbox Wire. "But we also heard from people that they just like to play games with a controller in their hand, and they play multiplayer through Xbox Live. What we wanted to do is, for those people, make sure there's a version of Xbox that meets the exact needs that they have."
Spencer maintains that Kinect "remains an important part of [Microsoft's] vision," as he says more than 80 percent of Xbox One users "actively" interact with the sensor, with an average of 120 voice commands issued by each user per month. For those who wish to purchase the less-expensive Xbox One but may want the sensor later, Microsoft will begin offering Kinect separately sometime "this fall."
In addition to lacking voice and motion commands, the $399 version of Xbox One will also seemingly lack some TV functionality, as the Kinect sensor controls associated TVs and set-top boxes. TV features have been a large part of Microsoft's Xbox One plan since the console was first announced, with several Microsoft-developed shows and movies scheduled for release on the console and the Xbox 360 in the coming months.
The Kinect-free version of Xbox One notably places it at the same price as Sony's PlayStation 4, which has seen a significant sales advantage over Microsoft's console. Today's announcement also comes on the heels of analyst speculation that Microsoft would offer the Xbox One without Kinect by 2015.
Microsoft was previously adamant that it would not release a version of Xbox One without Kinect, saying the sensor was a necessary part of the console's experience. In an August interview, Xbox executive Phil Harrison said the two could not be separated.
"Xbox One is Kinect," he said. "They are not separate systems. An Xbox One has chips, it has memory, it has Blu-ray, it has Kinect, it has a controller. These are all part of the platform ecosystem."
While Microsoft stated Kinect was vital to the Xbox One, game developers appeared to disagree. At launch, no games required the sensor, and few have been released since then with extensive support for Kinect.