So, today Microsoft announced that it's newest console, the Xbox One, would no longer be bundled with the Kinect accessory. This has sparked a lot of debate around the internet with people claiming it should never have been done, should never have HAD to been done, or that it's simply too late to change anything. I'm in the group of people that says it should never have been done, that Microsoft has made a huge mistake in doing so, and I would like to explain why to you all. I will also relate it to Call of Duty, as keeping with the whole purpose of this website. In all honesty though, this blog will mostly cover the Xbox One itself.
The Xbox One was announced last year, in May 2013, as Microsofts follow-up to the their popular Xbox 360. The console was announced to a gigantic amount of negative backlash and controversy, mostly due to Microsofts seemingly restrictive policies and their focus on entertainment as a whole rather than just gaming. The Xbox One was originally bundled with kinect, kinect couldn't be unplugged, it required a daily "check-in" to do anything at all, entertainment apps were locked behind the gold paywall, and games could not be traditionally shared between friends. After the incredible amount of controversy, Microsoft reversed several of it's decisions. Everything except the bundled kinect and gold paywall was removed, and the console was sold for 500$, which most saw as a high price and blamed the kinect for bumping the price an extra 100$.
These reversing events were controversial in and of themselves. Those who were supportive of the Digital Rights Management, myself included, were annoyed at the removal of several DRM specific features that differentiated the console from it's competitors at Nintendo and Sony. Things such as digitally sharing games with up to ten friends, multi-tasking games, possible digital game future, and a host of smaller improvements that could have been brought to the console on the assumption that it would always be connected to the internet. Though we were a minority, it was an annoyance to see promised features removed to the uproar of a community that didn't see the same future.
But what we still had was Kinect.
Why Kinect Was Good and Why it's a Huge Mistake to Remove it
Kinect was seen on the Xbox 360 as a gimmick, and it was. It was in a very early state and wasn't really worht the price it was asking for. Yeah you could shout a couple voice commands at your TV, play a couple party games, and video chat with friends, but there was nothing about the Kinect on Xbox 360 that made you feel like you'd be missing out on anything if you didn't have it, and sadly, this same feeling was translated to the Kinect 2.0 even before it was released.
Why it Was Good
I often here a lot of people claim the Kinect is gimmicky, and that it's not important to the Xbox One or gaming in general, and I can't help but feel sorry for these people. They always seem to be either A) People who don't own the console or B) People who let their pre-conceived notions of kinect prevent them from ever plugging the thing in in the first place. I was skeptical at first about the kinect as well. Other than being able to use it to record video, I didn't see much potential use IN THE CURRENT MOMENT for it's use. But I was very very wrong. Once I actually got my hands on an Xbox One I understood why it was so important to the console and why Microsoft was pushing it so hard.
One of my first games for Xbox One was Dead Rising 3, and while it's neither a perfect game (though a very fun one) nor a perfect example of the Kinect's use it was the first game that really made me realize that the device had potential for use in the future of gaming. Capcom knew every player would have a kinect so they took advantage of that, and in two notable ways. The first way, was the more expected way. If you were driving a car or running around the city streets and a zombie happened to latch onto you, you had to swing the controller in a certain direction to get it off in a mini-quicktime event. It was fun and engaging. Not a game selling feature, but a nice one nonetheless. The second feature was the smaller one, but the one that I'm talking about when I say it made me realize the Kinect's potential. If you shouted "Come here" into the Mic, your voice would attract zombies in the game toward your position and right into traps. You could also say specific key phrases during boss fights, but I never figured out what those were for (A friend told me once, but I forgot).
Now this was exciting, but it was a step in the right direction. Wow, I could actually use my voice to interact with the world of a AAA game? Yeah, it was in a very small way, but think of the potential! It makes me think back to Project Milo and what a game world could be like if that sort of technology was ever implemented into a game.
Ryse was another example of the game using Kinect commands well. Though Ryse itself was a bit of a repetitive game, though with some great and brutal visuals, being able to call in Archers to protect you during battle with your voice (or any other sort of Level-Based command) was awesome and empowering.
And then there was Project Spark. Now, Spark is still in Beta, so most of it's Kinect features haven't been implemented yet. But one absolutely amazing one is that you can record yourself moving around and doing any action you please with the kinect, and then apply that whole animation to your in game character. For the type of game Project Spark is, a game-building game, that kind of functionality is amazing and works very well (though in all honesty could use some tuning) for what it is.
And then there was FRU, a game in-development that made the kinect actually look like a gaming device, no gimmicks attached. Using your own shadow, projected on the screen thanks to the kinect, you discover platforms and items in a level to assist your character, who you control traditionally with a controller, in order to advance to the next stage.
There were also some smaller examples, like Head Tilting in Battlefield 4, but even I admit some of these were very gimmicky.
I know some people will wonder why I'm not speaking about Kinect Sports Rivals, but it's because I haven't actually played it. From all accounts it's an incredibly well done and fun game with great kinect functionality, it's just that the price is a little steep for it's kind of game. Which is actually the exact reason I haven't picked it up, hopefully it comes with Games for Gold soon.
And this was exciting for the Industry. Developers new they now had an install base when it came to the Kinect, so now they were developing games with Kinect features, and they were moving into cooler and cooler territory with those features. I personally couldn't wait too see what Kinect could have possibly led to with creative voice or motion gaming in AAA games, not just party games, but real AAA action/adventure/rpg/strategy games. The potential was there and was awesome! It wasn't here, but it easily could have been coming.
And I'm only talking about the gameplay applications. I can't tell you the amount of times I've been playing a game and just seamlessly told my Xbox to Snap (Open a Window in the corner of the screen to play an application) Netflix. Or to go and Watch TV, on a specific channel. Or to record that crazy kill I made in Battlefield 4. Or to switch over to Lego Marvel cause I'm bored of Forza. Or to go to reddit. Or youtube. Or anything. The kinect makes using the Xbox One itself an absolute breeze, and I'm blown away when friends of mine who own Xbox One's tell me they don't use Kinect. Kinect could have easily been what was going to separate the Xbox One even more from the Playstation 4 and Wii U.
Why it Was a Mistake to Remove it
Because now that potential is gone. Microsoft is going to sell more Xbox Ones, way more, but almost none of them will come with the Kinect. No install base means no incentive for developers to want to develop interesting Kinect mechanics or even full games based around the hardware, which is disappointing all in it's own right. All the Xbox One is now is another console, not a next-gen console. Just another console with prettier graphics and able to run bigger games. There's nothing new about it, well on the hardware side at least, which was always my biggest complaint about the PS4. It was nothing new, just a more powerful version of the last console with a ton of social features. Now that's exactly what the Xbox One is, though it has some nifty software capabilities to boot, and the HDMI-input is welcome as well.
Plus, as a constant user of my Kinect, I can't even accept the idea that these people will be getting the full Xbox One experience. They'll be getting one, but it will be some boring, less flowing version of the experience and it's just absolutely disappointing that so many people will flock to the Kinect-less console because it won't have the "Gimmicky NSA Spying Device" attached to it.
And I'm not bitter about the price drop, at all. I was an early adopter, I got my console on Day One. I knew it would change dramatically as time went on and I knew that eventually the console was going to be a lower price than what I paid for. I'm not angry at all about the price, I knew what I was doing and had made my decision. I'm angry that, once again, Microsoft has gone back on it's vision of a Next-Gen console.
And what is Xbox One without kinect anyway? I'm not going to sit here and turn a blind eye to the fact that the PS4 has a more powerful GPU then the Xbox One. But when you're looking at the console from just a hardware perspective, what makes the Xbox One standout from the PS4 now? Nothing, it's lost it's edge now because of the loss of kinect.
What This Means for the Other Consoles
One of the first things I saw on twitter when I heard the news was some guy wondering if Nintendo would take Microsofts "hint" and release a Wii U without the Gamepad. Is this the standard of the industry now? No new ideas, no new features, just give us a console, give us a controller, and we'll be on our way. Maybe that is an exaggeration (All three consoles have several improvements software wise from their predecessor), but to ask that Nintendo now takeaway the one thing that makes the Wii U standout from the pack is just as absurd.
The Gamepad is just as every bit misunderstood as the Kinect. It's labelled a pointless gimmick and seen as a clunky controller, but it's neither of those things. It contains just as much potential as the Kinect, while also being implemented even more often than the latter device (Nintendoland, Miiverse, Wind Waker HD, and Pikmin 3 all come to mind) and is a genuinely neat device that I hope Nintendo learns to better utilize in the future. What is Wii U without the kinect? A seventh generation system competing with 8th generation systems, not the Next-Gen system it is with the Gamepad.
Let me make one thing absolutely clear before I write this section, as I'm sure it's swirling through a lot of heads right now. I AM NOT AN XBOX FANBOY AND I DO NOT HATE THE PLAYSTATION 4. I am actually very interested in buying one, and have told people this many times. I intend too once I have a bit more pocket change. It looks like a great device, with a great indie market as well as one particularly interesting exclusive...*cough*Infamous Second Son*cough*.
What this means for Playstation 4 is that it's won. PS4 decided to be exactly what the PS3 was, with more power, a touch pad, and a share button, and it's worked out wonderously for it. Microsoft tried to bring people into a new generation of consoles, and they rejected it for the old (Though if I'm being honest, I can't exactly not fault Microsoft for not making their vision clear in the slightest). Nintendo banked on gameplay being what would pull people in over graphics, and failed their too (Though Nintendo is guilty of some of the worst marketing for a console I've ever seen). So at this point, Sony has one the hardware war by doing absolutely nothing.
You might be tempted to tell me that Project Morpheus is PS4's "big improvement" and I won't undermine the concept of Virtual Reality being a big step in gaming (Though I have my own opinions on the timing of that step) but the truth is it's not the equivalent of the Kinect or Gamepad. It is something Sony is going to have you buy in addition to the console, not with it. And that means small install base, and small install base means it's never used to it's full potential.
So here we are, stuck in a stagnated pool of consoles. We have the one that never tried to change, the one that tried and undid everything, and the one that's still fighting a losing battle to be different (though hopefully Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. 4 can change that).
What This Means for Call of Duty
Now you might think I would have to force in some kind of dumb reason this could effect Call of Duty to make it relevant to the Wiki, but I actually don't. Around a year ago, Activision "confirmed" that Call of Duty: Ghosts would feature voice commands utilizing the Xbox Kinect, and supposedly the PS Eye and Wii U Gamepad. This ultimately didn't come to fruition, but the fact that Call of Duty, a very Xbox Biased franchise, was considering using the kinect even for a rather gimmicky thing like squad voice commands, was a step in the right direction. It was a sign that big, AAA developers were starting to take alternate control methods just a little bit more seriously. Though these didn't come to fruition, the fact that they were brought up was a good sign, and I doubt Activision will be bringing them up anymore, considering the install base is going to drop so dramatically when it comes to console owners versus Kinect (Or just voice control, PS Eye isn't doing that well) owners.
Despite all my negativity towards the announcement, I won't pretend that it didn't come with some good news afterall. For starters, people holding out for a price drop just received their wish, and the console is 100$ cheaper.
Microsoft notably made developers save 10% of the consoles GPU for the Kinect, 8% of it going to Kinect video and the other 2% going to sound. They eventually dropped the 8% requirement for video, and it's expected that remaining 2% will be freed up as well, thanks to the Kinect now being optional.
And it's not like all the Xbox One Kinects already out there are all suddenly gone, or that it won't sell anymore for as long as the systems on the market. It's not even that games suddenly won't have kinect features or that kinect games themselves will stop getting made. It's just that with such smaller numbers than it honestly should have been, Kinect 2.0 won't have nearly the kind of impact Microsoft or it's fans hoped it would.
I also don't believe hardware is what makes the console, games are. It's why I picked Xbox One over PS4 and why I've been so happy with it, the launch line-up has been fantastic. But that doesn't excuse it from losing the edge that made it truly "next-gen".
Plus, Microsoft announced Games with Gold for Xbox One and that entertainment apps are no longer locked behind the gold paywall. So at least they softened the blow.
Microsofts removal of the Kinect from the Xbox One is hugely upsetting news, in my opinion, for both the gaming industry and the console. All it is now is a less powerful PS4 with some different software and some entertainment focuses. It's not without some minor good news, but that good news doesn't outweigh what is, in reality, a tragedy.
And in regards to Call of Duty, it won't change anything, and that's a bad thing.
In closing, while I still am more than happy with my Xbox One, don't particularly think Hardware is what makes a console, and can't wait for what games lie ahead, this news is upsetting, and I can't deny that.
Disclaimer: Sorry for any spelling, grammar, or other mistakes in the blog. I'll edit in the morning when I'm not so tired.