Since June, the console war battle has gone on and when the PS4 and Xbox One both launched this past holiday season, we knew we'd be in for additions, changes and key decisions that would spell out success or defeat for Sony and Microsoft for the coming years. As far as changes are concerned, the Xbox One is a completely different device than it was initially set out to be, with Microsoft backing down from a lot of innovative features that would have set the gaming system apart from anything else. Starting June 9th, Microsoft announced it will be removing the requirement to purchase a Kinect with the Xbox One, and the console will now be $100 cheaper. On the plus side, we're going to see some changes concerning Xbox Live Gold as well.
A totally different "next-gen" console
As we could have predicted with the path of changes we've seen, in the summer we'll now see the Xbox One sold without Kinect for $399, putting it right at the same price as the PlayStation 4. Glazing over the fact that this now takes the Xbox One away from even remotely resembling the vision at inception, Microsoft said in the announcement that you can still do all the great gaming and entertainment features you'd expect with the Xbox One. This, of course, no longer includes voice and gesture commands, search and interactivity. And you won't be able to tell the One to "Snap" your game with your Skype app while playing the game with both of your hands.
This change won't affect current Kinect users on the Xbox One, as the framework is staying the same, but it certainly affects some Kinect game developers. If a large number of people purchase the console without the motion and voice accessory, I could see the publishers shifting away from focusing resources on Kinect titles and interactivity. Many also think that the Kinect wasn't as widely accepted as Microsoft had hoped, which may be true, considering that Titanfall does not include any Kinectable actions at all within the game's context.
More free games and free video-streaming
So while dreams of new and exciting things with the Kinect are placed into the same pile of ashes as discless gaming and constant-connected environments, at least we still have Microsoft's cloud servers and Azure technology, which currently are in use for over 75 percent of Xbox One's games. Speaking of games, we weren't sure if Xbox 360's very popular free Games with Gold program would carry over to the Xbox One and now we're being told that it will. Starting in June, Games with Gold will arrive on the next-gen console starting with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. June will also see the 360 getting an upgrade with three games being offered each month instead of two. On the list are Dark Souls, Charlie Murder and a bonus game of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Oh, and for those wondering, you'll still only need one Xbox Live Gold subscription to take advantage of five free games each month. If that's not winning I don't know what is.
There's even more positives coming to Gold members with an Xbox One, and that's in the form of discounts. Those not currently in possession of Forza 5 or Ryse, among others, will see a 50-75 percent discount on those titles beginning in June. Microsoft will also be introducing a VIP room on the One that will feature free games, exclusive deals and other perks and bonuses.
And we can't forget about the fact that the Xbox One and the 360 are both still committed to being the center of entertainment in the home, not just gaming. This was further proven this week when, in the same announcement, Microsoft said that many popular entertainment options will no longer require Xbox Live Gold. Services like Machinima, Twitch, Upload, Netflix, HBO Go, NFL, MLB.TV and NHL Game Center will be offered up to Silver members as well. This was a big gripe with a lot of 360 owners, as some wanted to use the inexpensive $200 arcade version merely as a streaming device, and had to fork up another $60 a year on top of the premium subscription services they wanted to use and were already paying for. This should really attract more customers to the Xbox platform as a whole, as 360s are getting cheaper by the day and can now be used for entertainment without requiring Gold.
So, what do you think about all of these changes? All of the Gold perks and free entertainment options are really a plus but I'm extremely bummed about the lost vision of the Xbox One. Are you? Let us know in the comments section below.