See now, right now there is a thing ongoing that kids call the “console wars.” Every generation of videogame consoles has a console war, but in this age of the internet it feels like it is dumber than ever. Many who speak loudly on the internet believe that Sony is winning this generation’s “console wars” by moving more units and because the PlayStation 4 is able to render most cross-platform games in higher resolution at a higher frame rate. That is a big deal, in fact, it was the main reason why I chose the PS4 over the Xbox One. It almost felt like a no-brainer to go with the more powerful console that was $100 cheaper. But brand loyalty is a very real thing and Microsoft has a trick up its sleeve.
Part of what was holding the Xbox One back wasn’t the lower resolution and frame rate for most gamers, because, well, most aren’t going to be able to tell the difference anyway. What was holding them back was the price point. $499 for the Xbox One and $399 for the PlayStation 4 made this a lot easier for the undecided fans; you go with the cheaper one. Microsoft really thought that using voice commands and forcing the Kinect to be a pack-in would force game developers to consider creating great games for the Kinect. Instead what happened is that less people purchased the Xbox One and that the new Kinect still doesn’t really have a killer app for it, it’s kind of just the packed-in voice controller.
Today Microsoft conceded defeat on forcing the world to use the Kinect and announced that starting on June 9th they will ship a version of the Xbox One that does NOT include the Kinect sensor and will sell for $399. They also announced today that they will bring their “Games with Gold” campaign to the Xbox One, meaning that starting next month there will be free games on the Xbox One as long as you have a Gold account. It works almost exactly like PlayStation Plus, so if you deactivate your Gold account you lose your games. The games will be Halo: Spartan Assault and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.
Microsoft also announced that they are removing the Xbox Live Gold paywall to access apps like Netflix and Hulu. So it looks like Microsoft has had to, once again, change their business plans to be more like the competition. It’s a good thing that they are seeing the problems, but foresight would probably make them not look as bad in situations like this.