What has shocked many is Microsoft’s plan to release an Xbox One without Kinect. The new variant will be priced at $399, a figure that closes the $100 gap between the Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. Despite early promises to developers and Xbox One owners that Kinect would ship with every console, its clear Microsoft is having to change course and listen to consumers. “We’ve also heard from people they just like to play games with a controller in their hands,” says Microsoft’s head of Xbox, Phil Spencer. “We’ll continue to innovate on Kinect, I think it’s an important differentiator for us, but I also know there are people out there that want to make the choice when they want to make it.” The $499 model with Kinect will continue to be sold, but Microsoft will also introduce a standalone Kinect sensor for Xbox One “later this fall.”
Alongside the Xbox One pricing changes, Microsoft is also revealing some alterations to Xbox Live Gold. Rumors had suggested the company would drop the requirement for an Xbox Live Gold subscription for streaming apps, and Microsoft is doing just that and more. Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners will no longer have to sign up to an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access apps like Netflix, Hulu, Skype, Internet Explorer, and many more. The equally surprising move comes as Microsoft continues to assess how it will roll out universal apps across Xbox One, Windows, and Windows Phone, with a potential Xbox One app store in the works.
Both changes are surprising, but they could be necessary for Microsoft to try and keep pace with Sony’s impressive PlayStation 4 sales. Despite the launch of Titan fall on Xbox One recently, Sony has still managed to extend its lead by two million units. That’s not a huge gap yet, but the recent appointment of Phil Spencer as head of Xbox has clearly spurred the company to respond a lot quicker than many had expected.