Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Kinect Necessity Gone for Xbox One

Of course, another question is as clear as mud.

It seems like such an odd thing, to take so long to end up with nothing, and have people happy with the result. Yet, that is how I could best summarize the journey that the Xbox One has taken. Although not completely reviled at its unveiling, to say that people were less than enthusiastic about the direction that the console and the company behind it seemed to be taking was indeed an understatement.

Then came E3, where Sony effectively made a mockery of the company and earned the love of gamers everywhere for ... pretty much doing nothing. It has been said before and it bears saying again: nothing that Sony did at E3 was in and of itself worth praise, it was only due to Microsoft's choices that Sony's were lauded to begin with.

Finally came the concessions and the backtracking. Used games are back, no more always online requirement or phoning home, changes to the indie game set-ups. And now, perhaps the one last outlier: Kinect doesn't need to be always on and always watching.

This change came to light during the first day of an "Ask Microsoft Anything about the Xbox One" over at IGN, where Chief Xbox One Platform Architect Marc Whitten was asked whether or not the Xbox One system would be unusable if the Kinect were broken or otherwise damaged. The response, or at least the pertinent part of it, is as follows:

"That said, like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor."

You can't really get clearer than that in terms of whether or not the peripheral in question is actually required. Certainly there are going to be cases where you're going to have to turn the Kinect on, specifically for games that require movements as part of their experience. However, if you're playing a game that just uses a regular controller, then you can have the Kinect unplugged and in the box that it came in for all that you could care.

Whitten also got into specifics about what simply turning the Kinect off meant:

"You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode. You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue."

Again, at least according to what's being said, if you choose to you can have it so that the Kinect, even when still plugged in and powered, doesn't do much of anything. Both of these pieces of information, especially the former fact that you don't even need the Kinect to run the system, probably come as a great deal of relief to those that were worried about privacy when it came to using the console.

However, something strikes me as odd. You might have noticed that at no point did Whitten say that these were new concessions. Does that mean gamers could always play without the Kinect? If the answer to that question is 'yes', then why dance around the subject for so long? Up until this very point people have gotten the impression that the Kinect was something that was absolutely necessary for the Xbox One to work, and if it wasn't, then why did no one at Microsoft think to mention this at the point when people were, you know, freaking the fuck out about it?

Either way, whether this was something truly new, or just the actual truth of the situation finally coming out, it again serves to make Microsoft just look inept, which is something that they really should be trying to avoid, rather than actively propagate. But, hey, whatever works, I guess?

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