The Kinect has been an interesting experiment. First launched in 2010, the console within a console seemed to beckon in a new era of Minority Report style gaming where the clunky, physical controllers of yesteryear would be rendered obsolete. Of course, there was skepticism, and that skepticism turned out to be correct as the peripheral and its games were never fully integrated and mostly remained separate products so far removed that they had a different colored case. But from that set-back came promise. Sure there were colossal failures in Star Wars, Dragon Ball Z and Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, but there were also successes in Fable: The Journey and the fantastic Dance Central series. When Microsoft announced that the Kinect would be a mandatory accessory with the Xbox One, it showed that the 360’s iteration was simply a test run for a new generation of gaming. Or so we thought.
Today, Microsoft announced that the Kinect would no longer be a mandatory accessory and they would soon launch a standalone console option for $399.99. Financially, this is a sound decision. For Kinect unbelievers, the device was one of the biggest obstacles preventing them from purchasing a console. With the price drop, the system now matches the PS4 in price and takes away one of the biggest roadblocks for potential purchasers. It’s fantastic — but only for those who don’t already one an Xbox One. For those of us who do, however, we’ll likely soon have a $100 paperweight.
The biggest upside of the new Kinect was that it effectively made the Xbox One have a 100% Kinect attachment rate. This meant that developers wouldn’t have to question whether or not they should develop for the peripheral as everybody would be able to utilize it. Indeed, this was the biggest hurdle the original Kinect had to overcome and truly never really did, with games that used the device dwindling during the console’s final hours. Although we currently haven’t seen a substantial increase in Kinect-only games, the amount of controller-based games utilizing the device for supplementary commands has been almost universal. While in some games it has not been much more than a novelty, others have seen it act as a helpful way to boost their interactivity.
Come June 9, however, that 100% adoption rate will be no more. More still, most purchasers will likely opt for the cheaper bundle, completing turning the attachment rate on its head. Within 6 months, there will likely be more Kinect-less Xbox One owners and the incentive for developers to utilize it will have all but disappeared. Sure, we’ll likely continue seeing Kinect-only games and Kinect features in controller-based games, but likely these will be few and far between and almost certainly be exclusively from Microsoft or be Just Dance.
Kinect 2.0 is a solid device. Sure, there will always be those who simply won’t be converted to controller-less gaming, but in the current short lifespan of the console, we’ve seen exciting successes. Casual games Just Dance 2014 and Zumba World Fitness boasted almost seamless move recognition and Kinect Sports Rivals actually made the series enjoyable. The fact of the matter is: if Microsoft was unwilling to stick with a Kinect-only Xbox One, they should have never implemented the concept in the first place. The entire point was to make it an unavoidable part of the console that over time would ideally be adapted by consumers and developers due to its assured attachment rate. Now that they’ve failed to stick to their plan, they’ve not only ruined the prospect of the Kinect becoming the future of gaming, but have swindled anybody who bought an Xbox One in the past six months. Sure, they’ll still have a Kinect, but it won’t be long until they’ll liter the used bins of gaming stores and become essentially worthless, same as the Xbox 360 device.