Some ideas pay for themselves. Others…not so much.
The Xbox One has had many challenges over the last several months since its launch. With fierce competition from its competitor Sony (and the PS4 selling like hotcakes), even the Microsoft brass themselves have acknowledged where they may have dropped the ball on more than one occasion. Phil Spencer (newly appointed Xbox head) recently called last summer a “personal challenge” for him, regretting some of the choices made in regards to new policies and managing gamer’s expectations. Not their best days, to be sure. Despite being critical of Microsoft and the decision making process from the top, I’ve always maintained the new Xbox console itself is a fundamentally sound piece of hardware.
And hardware is the topic of discussion today (that and the bloated price tag of the One).
As you probably know by now (if you’ve followed my coverage of the console war as of late), I’ve illustrated how Sony has made several key moves that have put them firmly ahead of their Xbox counterpart, with worldwide sales doubling that of their competitor and their brand ranking higher in personal opinion polls among players. However, there is definitely another albatross around the neck of Microsoft that is weighing them down and making it difficult for them to swim to the surface. I’m referring to the extra hundo tacked onto their console. Microsoft’s strategy early on was to justify the additional cost of their system by touting how consumers would get more for their dollars compared to the PS4. They’ve clearly decided to double-down on the Kinect moving forward, so integrating it as a “non-negotiable” addition was their plan to convince people that the extra dough at the register was worth it. Unfortunately, here we are several months later, and I’m not sure that message has resonated with gamers or industry insiders. Most still only see the Kinect as an afterthought at best and a complete gimmick at worst. Peter Molyneux even called out the hardware recently, saying, "I actually wish Kinect wasn't a requirement…It feels like an unnecessary add-on to me. Maybe it's because we're in England, and it doesn't really use the TV stuff, but it feels more and more like a joke.”
So how important is the on-board camera to the future of the console? Is he right? Is it just a joke?
I’m of two minds on the subject. First off, I love the direction developers are going with VR. With Sony’s Morpheus project and the recently sold Oculus Rift (pending Facebook not screwing it up), the future of how we play our games is wide open. Getting us away from the tried and true formula of sitting on our couches and just flicking the thumb sticks is, I believe, a necessity to the expansion of our industry. I actually respect what Microsoft is attempting to do with the Kinect and their motion-sensing technology, as they’re clearly trying to get us more connected to what we’re doing in a very Star Trek-esque kinda’ way. However, their fatal flaw was bundling it with the console (and thus forcing a $100 increase in price). It’s ok to sell gamers on the idea of your product being something they NEED, but the moment you tell them they HAVE to take it, like it or not, is when you are doomed to fail.
After all, not everyone is as in-touch with the ins and outs of what goes on in the gaming industry as we are. Some causal players look at both the PS4 and the Xbox One as essentially the same in most cases (with the number of exclusives titles being negligible) and choose simply based on price. It is here where the larger price tag negatively impacts Microsoft’s chances of success greatly, as the camera add-on just isn’t selling itself. Forcing it down our throats was a calculated move, but a bad one by all accounts. The PlayStation 4’s sticker just looks a lot sexier when reaching for your wallet. We’re already seeing Microsoft take notice, as a few $450 bundles have popped up here and there. Pretty soon, they will undoubtedly go the route of the Xbox 360, and release a redesign with the camera removed and a smaller price tag, much as they did when they dropped the backwards compatibility function mid-cycle during last-generation. For more on the subject, check out this article I did from earlier in the week (as you’ll find history seemingly repeating itself).
So I pose this question to all you Xbox One owners: if I handed you a hundred dollar bill right now in exchange for your Kinect camera, would you take it?