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So Microsoft Lost Round One…

May 13, 2014

imageKinect-less consoles for $399 starting June 9th. So that is their tacit acknowledgement that PS4 won out of the gate. And personally, I am quite surprised. My Kinect has not worked in two weeks, and I do miss it. Yeah, it is not vital to the core product, and they had trouble making it an essential part. At a more philosophical level, this is the final reversal from the original Microsoft stance, and the completion of the 180. Now the Kinect will not have 100% saturation. The future is bit less interesting because of this.

New Kinect-less SKU

So, now while Sony has got their arms up in the air, and their guard down, Microsoft unleashes a devastating roundhouse kick (totally ruining the boxing metaphor… Stupid MMA.). Gold is no longer needed to play MP games online or access apps. Take that Sony! The one clear advantage of their online service is gone. Gold will now look more like PS+, being a ’’free’’ game and discount service. Microsoft already has their network infrastructure where they want it, and make oodles off of the ads.

Which works for me, because my Gold expired April 1st, and I had not renewed it yet. I don’t really buy games online, and I don’t play all that many games, but I do play online games.

Major Nelson Changes to Gold

Please feel free to edit/add pics etc.

  1. rEDChief55 permalink*
    May 13, 2014 6:59 pm

    Am I legitimately missing it or is Gold still required for online play? If it wasn’t then there wouldn’t be much incentive at all to having it, especially at a $60/year value. I could be missing something I guess but I’m pretty sure you need it to play multiplayer online

    • Blankman permalink*
      May 13, 2014 8:39 pm

      Unless I can’t read for squat, Gold is still required for on-line MP. I re-read Phil Spencer’s announcement on Major Nelson’s site, and I couldn’t find any mention that XBL Gold isn’t required for on-line play.

      As far as offering an XB1 SKU w/o Kinect, it essentially serves as the death kneal of the controversial peripheral. Wow, this comes less than the XB1’s one-year anniversary (eight months)! We’ve discussed this scenario several times during our party chats, and I don’t think any of us saw this coming. MS must be really desperate to stop the initial bleeding. Their talk about long-term vision rings a bit hollow now that they’ve essentially ditched the Kinect 2.0, in favor of a competitive price tag against Sony’s PS4. By offering a Kinectless SKU, it serves as an admission of sorts that the Kinect was a mistake. This latest move solidifies the decision of opting for less powerful memory in favor of off-setting the Kinect 2.0’s cost was fundamentally moronic. If MS no longer has confidence in its peripheral, why should developers and gamers? To add insult to injury, it’s yet another slap to the face of early adopters.

      Reaction from Harmonix to Spencer’s announcement wasn’t exactly surprising. John Drake, Harmonix’s Director of Publishing & PR, sarcastically tweeted, “Oh great. Super great.” Nick Chester, Harmonix’s publicist, followed up with, “Now Kinect designers have to work extra hard to innovate and make solid software. Good thing we were already doing that!” This change in course could very well shutter studios if they attempt to develop for the Kinect now. The risks have simply been amplified ten fold. Since many developers have opted NOT to implement/integrate Kinect-enabled features for many games that have already been released or forthcoming this year, this latest strategy certainly doesn’t bode well for the peripheral. Innovation, an extraordinary amount of R&D, & the true potential of the Kinect have now been killed off due to MS’ unwillingness to offer enough time for creativity to emanate from designers/developers. Console parity doesn’t exist anymore. You can hear the hammering of the nails in the Kinect’s coffin. How utterly disappointing.

      On the other hand, Phil Spencer has to be acknowledged although I wouldn’t push for commending him for making such a bold move. If the current strategy results in the XB1 consistently losing marketshare to the PS4, you’ve got to change course. After all, he is in charge of steering MS’ console toward greener pastures and insuring its longevity. Whether or not “killing off” the Kinect 2.0 is a sound decision, it does take balls to pull that trigger. Then again, Spencer may have never actually been in Kinect 2.0’s corner since it was a Mattrick-inherited plan from the very beginning.

      Flip flopping seems to be thrown about quite frequently when referring to MS’ XB1 strategy, but if it proves to right the wrongs; that shouldn’t be taken as a negative connotation. This isn’t politics, folks. Suns said it best in last night’s party chat; if MS really did put gamers first, they would have taken the cost of the Kinect on the chin & lowered the price. Furthermore, they could have compensated early adopters with a free first party digital game. Subsidizing the Kinect through future game sales should have been the route to go. This would have truly been a bold move! As far as my feelings of the Kinectless strategy, it’s disappointing to take out the legs of a horse shortly after it’s come out of the gates. It never stood a real chance. 😦

    • Herandar permalink
      May 13, 2014 8:47 pm

      It is supposed to be required, but as I mentioned above, my Live Gold expired a month and a half ago, and I’ve played MP games nearly every night that I’ve been on the One. I don’t think that it was ever switched on for Xbox One players, but I’m guessing it is still a requirement on the 360. Could find out fairly quickly…

      It is not going to be required going forward, which is why I suspect it was never turned on for One gamers. Weaning my son on PvZ:GW MP.

    • Blankman permalink*
      May 13, 2014 8:56 pm

      Are you sure it’s not a snafu?

    • Herandar permalink
      May 13, 2014 9:10 pm

      Yes, blank, I’m fairly certain. Last time my Gold expired, I tried to play a game with friends on the 360, and it shuts you down immediately, and then upsells Gold. My son has never had Gold and been playing Plants vs. Zombies MP since it came out.

      As for it not being required going forward, I read this line: “we will offer anyone who owns an Xbox 360 or Xbox One **access to popular games** and entertainment apps without an Xbox Live Gold membership”. This all might be wishful thinking, but this is specifically negating the sole advantage Sony MP has, which is what they need to do.

    • Blankman permalink*
      May 13, 2014 9:36 pm

      Here’s the fine print about those asterisks. I copied & pasted it directly from Major Nelson’s site: “** Free Games Offer: For paid Gold members only. On Xbox One, active Gold membership required to play free games you’ve downloaded. Must download titles during designated window. Kinect and/or hard drive required for some games.”

      As far as free on-line MP without Gold XBL, I think that MS doesn’t realize this glaring loophole yet. They’re up in arms trying to work out the OS that this could be a complete oversight.

    • Herandar permalink
      May 14, 2014 4:20 pm

      I added the asterisks in my previous post, since I was replying on my phone and could not see any way to alter formatting. The fine print is about the Games With Gold, and not about “access to games…without Xbox Live Gold.“

      I do hope it isn’t a loophole. It might be. I hope it isn’t, and I’m thinking that even if it is it won’t be going forward. I did NOT realize yesterday that a PS+ subscription is required for online multiplayer on PS4. So, Microsoft has this opportunity to flip the tables. And considering that they are already 3 million down in the Eighth Generation sales figures, this might be the thing they need.

  2. May 13, 2014 7:25 pm

    My two cents.

    The changes to Gold – taking stuff out from behind the premium curtain, and bringing free games for Gold members to the One – are great!

    For Xbox 360 owners, June’s free Games with Gold titles are the aforementioned Dark Souls, Ska Studio’s quirky brawler Charlie Murder, and the excellent Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (which is billed as a “bonus game”).

    The more welcome news is the Games with Gold will finally be launching for Xbox One in June, beginning with Halo: Spartan Assault and Max: Curse of the Brotherhood. It’s important to note that you will get the free games for both systems with a single Xbox Live gold account. Game Informer

    As regards the Kinect, I think after 1) the utter failure of the voice recognition to work reliably and consistently for most users – not just the hardcore who are willing to say each command three times in a calm voice, and 2) the utter inability for anyone to create any meaningful games with it, Microsoft threw in the towel.

    The thing is, the time to do the 180 is while you are in the air and everyone is watching and clapping, not after you have landed on your ass and you are rolling over because of the pain.

    For another perspective:

  3. May 13, 2014 10:50 pm

    Kenny, you are right about the “better late than never”. I completely agree. Still, it would have been far more effective had they done this last June when the public was crying out for it. That is what I meant by my skateboarding analogy.

    As for the rest, I wrote a long reply to your comments above but it got deleted, and now I don’t have time. I get to go home early today (10pm PST), so I will try to jump on for chatz. Hope to “see” you there.

  4. Blankman permalink*
    May 14, 2014 9:07 am

    Herandar, your Kinect is still under the 1-year XB1 warranty! Call MS support at 1(800) 4MY-XBOX to get a replacement.

    • Herandar permalink
      May 14, 2014 4:22 pm

      I contacted them about it immediately, and I have to ship it back. I’m just bad at getting around to it.

  5. May 14, 2014 11:51 am

    I understand the decision, and it is definitely better in the short term. But I do feel like this may be a long term mistake. The Kinect is a powerful peripheral asking for developers (who just started to get their hands on the tech) to innovate. This will also be a required piece of hardware if Microsoft decides to jump aboard the VR tech.

    Now for the positives:

    – Phil Spencer so far has proven to be a very transparent leader/voice of Xbox. He also appears to be spearheading these changes, which is refreshing coming from the last 8-9 years of Xbox management.

    – These are “big” announcements that they are making before E3. This could be to clear any stink out of the room, but I think this rather implies that this will be a whopper of an E3 for the company.

    • May 14, 2014 6:19 pm

      As regards their decision, my personal opinion is that they should have made this decision 11 months ago, but since they waited until this week, the decision should have been to subsidize the Kinect, not exclude it. Historically, companies lose money on the consoles and make it up in games and service revenues. So that would be nothing new. If their goal was to match the price of Sony’s PS4 (which all of us knew would be hugely important – doesn’t take Pachter to tell us that), they should have done so without sacrificing what made their product unique. Now, they just have a less powerful, same priced machine. What do they have now that Sony doesn’t.

      Both of the images Kenny embedded in the post were appropriate. They threw the baby out with the bath water and they killed Kinect.

      Microsoft definitely doesn’t want E3 to be negative, so clearing any stink and determining what the public wants to hear before E3 should be very high on their priority list. Also, I think they will have some cool announcements, even if it is just about Halo 5, Black Tusk Gears, Sunset Overdrive, and whatever other exclusives they have.

      I want to add this, Activision is already neutralizing the exclusivity and uniqueness of Titanfall with their Future CoD game, and it is multiplatform. People won’t need Titanfall to get their mech fix, yet it would be very good for MS if they could secure the rights to TF2 as well. But what they really need to do is convince everyone that the One is the console for the best The Division experience, in content and features. I think that The Division is to this generation what Halo:CE was to the Sixth Generation and MS offering the richest experience might make some people reconsider a jump to the PS4.

    • Average permalink*
      May 14, 2014 9:22 pm

      Disagree with the price cut, I agree they should have subsidized it.

      I was thinking that when I need to, I’ll buy another xbox one so I have one in the family room and one in my game room. When I saw the news I thought, nah I wouldn’t waste $399 and not be able to talk to it. I absolutely love being able to tell it where to go without a controller, worth my $100 right there (And yes I know it doesn’t always work every time, I’m fine with that! :))

      PS. I work every weekend so don’t expect to see me on late with you guys 😦 However I have seen Corny early some Saturday mornings when I got on before work or couldn’t sleep in! See ya boys soon.

    • rEDChief55 permalink*
      May 15, 2014 5:59 pm

      Good/expected news. There’s plenty coming this fall as it is and I don’t want them cutting corners

    • May 15, 2014 6:46 pm

      LOL Well, it is good news in the sense that it will be that much less un-baked. With the exception of Titanfall which has almost no content, too many games are coming out with game breaking bugs/exploits. It is time for developers to take their time. Iron out the bugs, and balance the gameplay.

      As for too much coming out this fall, there will never be an autumn when there isn’t a lot of cool stuff being released. This year it is Evolve and Sunset Overdrive.

      And NHL comes out every year. 😉

      Next autumn it will be something they unveil at E3.

      The great news is that Massive is going to show us more at E3. Can’t wait!

    • Blankman permalink*
      May 15, 2014 9:12 pm

      That’s not a surprise at all. It was too ambitious to release so quickly. It looks like Evolve, Batman: Arkham Knight, Quantum Break (possibly), & Sunset Overdrive (possibly) will be the games that will round out 2014 for me. If it’s any consolation, we’re going to have quite a nice line-up of games for 2015 in The Division, Witcher 3, Halo 5, & perhaps Gears 4!

      BTW: April’s NPD was just released, and the XB1 only sold 115K in North America. That is the lowest amount of consoles moved. Even the 360 hasn’t sold that few until just this year (since it became the previous gen). Hence, the numbers served as the dagger in the heart for the Kinect 2.0 remaining bundled with the console. When you’ve got dismal numbers like that, it takes a desperate move like the uncoupling of the peripheral.

  6. May 16, 2014 11:10 pm

    Penny Arcade!

  7. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    May 19, 2014 2:47 am

    Well at least in our home. we use the xbox one more than the ps4 by far and not just for gaming. However Kinect never lived up to it’s promise so i might remove in the future, aside from”xbox record that” which doesn’t happen as much anymore, there was very little use for it.

    The one thing that really bothers me from the xbox is the system lag, that doesn’t happen on the PS4 for me. I now have to turn it completely off each time to not have problems with it. If kinect is no longer important then we should be able to turn off the xbox easier now, they should fix than instead of putting it on standby

    • May 19, 2014 7:10 am

      Frenik, why are you using your One more than your PS4? Is the OS easier to use? Are you party chatting with more friends on the One? Are the multi-platform games better on the One? Are the TV related apps easier to use on the One?

      Certainly in the previous generation anyone who had both machines spent far more time on the 360 than the PS3.

    • FrenkoFrenik permalink
      May 20, 2014 2:20 am

      Originally it was basically because since everyone moved to xbox one and Titanfall, that was the hook to own it and play it more than PS4.

      But there are big roadblock for me on the PS4, for example i like everything digital, i only own one disc for the one, PvZ which is my sons, but everything else is digital. Sony servers make a simple download nearly impossible.

      The may have day 1 digital download of most games but you will not play it on day 1 guaranteed.

      They have more free to play games than the one, including a pinball game, but to me they are shovelware like all of them. Only DC Universe online which already played enough on the PS3 is worth the download.

      The controller even though is a vast improvement, puts me in a awkward position, it doesn’t shoot like a PS3 controller, and it doesn’t quite feel like a xbox controller. So it’s something that i would have to play exclusively to get used to, and without games that will not happen.

      One plus is that Redbox is renting some PS4 games and we got a chance to play infamous Second Son, and it was a treat to play it, but doesn’t have the longevity to be a must buy. So without liking Killzone’s MP as much, we have no real exclusives to grab us. Granted that Titanfall is not a draw anymore either, but it works for the occasional play.

      but the PS4 games are just superb to watch. That’s something that if I were a SP only player it would carry more weight than party chat for sure.

      The OS for the one is just easier for me to use, i know how to use the PS4 and for a long time i preferred the PS3 lag free loading of the menus to the 360 any day, but so far the one is more comfortable, even though i may have to keep closing apps, and wrestling with kinect to recognize simple voice commands, the truth is I enjoy the OS even with issues.

      As for the TV apps, etc. PS4 has a very good netflix app, but since we have a Smart TV it’s built in app is better than both, we dont use either the ps4 and the one.

      PS4 just needs a killer game to go along with it, or at least something like Titanfall that can draw me in more.

      I had that with MAG for the PS3 and while the fever for that game lasted, the 360 was completely forgotten. But once it went out, so did my time with the PS3.

      As for mutltiplatform games, i don’t have any i can compare aside from my 360 bf4 and The PS4 version.

      What i can see is that it looks great, and it doesn’t feel empty like other multiplatform games that i owned for PS3 vs. 360. There are always people playing.

      COD on the one is empty, which is the weirdest thing for a COD game, so much so that it reminded me of the early xbox live games where you would encounter the same people over and over.

      Aside from titanfall, who knows how big the installbase really is

    • May 20, 2014 6:51 pm

      Excellent info, Frenik! Thanks. It serves to make me feel better about my purchase. 😉

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