Kinect for Xbox One (Credit: Microsoft)
Once again, Microsoft has announced a major policy reversal for its upcoming console, revealing that the Xbox One will in fact operate even if the Kinect sensor isn’t plugged in.
Mark Whitten, Xbox chief product officer, made the announcement in a chat with IGN. It was just three months ago that Microsoft's Phil Spencer told the world that Kinect would have to be plugged into the Xbox One for the system to work.
Microsoft's not exactly dismissing the sensor. It’s still promoting it heavily and there are no known plans to sell the Xbox One without a Kinect. (Well, not yet, anyway.) Whitten made sure to talk it up as he described its downplayed significance.
"Games use Kinect in a variety of amazing ways, from adding voice to control your squad mates, to adding lean and other simple controls beyond the controller, to full immersive gameplay," he says. "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 have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings," he continued. "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."
It's worth noting that Microsoft has yet to demo any first-party games that show Kinect as the primary interface, and the sensor was barely used at E3. At present, the biggest upcoming game that really focuses on Kinect as the primary interface is Harmonix's Fantasia.
Albert Penello, senior director of product planning for Microsoft, further explained the shift in a post on the NEOGaf forums.
"The thing we all understood, and hence this change, is that there are some scenarios where people just may not be comfortable," he wrote. "We wanted people to be 100 percent comfortable, so we allow the sensor to be unplugged. And clearly the 'it dropped' scenario is possible."
If you're keeping score at home, this makes five policy shifts since the system's introduction in late May. In June it reversed its ‘always-on’ internet and used game policies. In July, it announced plans to let game makers self-publish on Xbox One. And earlier this month, the company went back on earlier claims that the system would ship without a bundled chat headset.
The rollbacks are mostly good news for gamers, who were in large part turned off by the system's slew of restrictive features when it was initially announced. What's next? Who knows? The Xbox One is set to hit shelves this holiday for $499. Well, at least it is right now.
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