Microsoft is reversing course on the Xbox One -- again.
The company has announced it will begin selling a version of its next-generation console -- minus the somewhat controversial Kinect peripheral -- for $399 starting June 9. The move is the latest in a series of surprising decisions Microsoft has made since its initial introduction of the system, as it had previously described Kinect as an essential part of the new Xbox experience.
The company is citing user feedback as the basis for the decision. (Translation: Few people like Kinect and virtually everyone feels the Xbox One is too expensive.) The move, Microsoft insists, will not result in a console that has fewer features than its predecessor.
"You will also be able to access popular entertainment apps, such as Twitch, YouTube, and Netflix, as well as watch live TV and use OneGuide," said Phil Spencer in a blog post. "You will [also] continue to be able to use many of the unique features of Xbox One including the ability to get game invites while you watch TV, switch between games and entertainment apps, enjoy Twitch broadcasts, and upload your favorite gaming moments."
The $499 Xbox One with Kinect will continue to be sold. Microsoft also said it plans to make a standalone Kinect sensor available for sale, should people who buy the less expensive console change their minds down the road.
The price change instantly makes the Xbox One more competitive with Sony’s PlayStation 4. Sony's system has sold more than 7 million units since its launch, versus just 5 million Xbox Ones to date.
Microsoft’s announcement comes well in advance of June’s massive E3 trade show, perhaps to let the inevitable chatter die down before it reveals its gaming lineup for the remainder of 2014 and 2015. While a cheaper Xbox One is great news for gamers, it's bound to annoy early adopters who were led to believe as recently as February that a Kinect-less Xbox One was simply not in the cards. Turns out it was, and you could have saved $100 had you just waited to buy one.
In addition to the new console offering, the company is making some changes to its Xbox Live policies. Effective next month, people will no longer have to have an Xbox Live account to access entertainment options such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go or the NFL app. The company is also removing Internet Explorer, Skype and OneDrive from behind the pay wall.
"We’ve heard that you want more choices from Xbox One," said Spencer. "You want a wide variety of options in your games and entertainment experiences and you also want options in your hardware selection."
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