When the new generation of consoles was unveiled last year, many gamers criticized Microsoft for bundling the Kinect camera with the console. Not only did it increase the cost of the system by $100 over competitor Sony's PS4, but it also raised privacy concerns after leaked NSA documents showed Microsoft's cooperation with domestic spying programs. Microsoft has since reversed many of their unpopular decisions, such as requiring the Xbox One to remain online at all times, requiring the Kinect to be connected at all times for the system to work at all, and removing the Xbox Live paywall from accessing apps like Netflix and Internet Explorer. The latest reversal was announced recently, stating that on June 9th, Microsoft would begin selling the Xbox One without a Kinect in the box, for a price of $399. This move puts the Xbox One on a level playing field with the Sony Playstation 4 in regards to price.
Now that the Xbox One and Playstation 4 are at the same $399 price point, the cost barrier has been removed. For many gamers and families across America, an extra $100 is a big deal when making purchasing decisions. If both systems run similar games, but one is $100 more, it's not hard to see why so many people have bought into the Playstation 4. Hell, that extra $100 could be another game, an extension to their PSN membership, an extra controller, etc. Now that both the Xbox and Playstation cost the same, we can look for other, more nuanced reasons to make our purchasing decision.
As the systems stand currently, it is well known that the Playstation 4 has more power and can deliver marginally better performance than the Xbox One. If you reference our Xbox vs Playstation hardware article from last year, the differences are shown to be rather small. Besides the hardware differences, the firmware also drives a further split in the performance due to the rumor that the Xbox One dedicates roughly 10% of system processing power to Kinect functionality. Moving forward, will the Xbox One receive a firmware update that could free up that additional 10% of juice since the Kinect is no longer a required component?
With price and performance coming closer together, it is truly the games that make the difference. No, I'm not talking about 100 lines of resolution between the two systems, I'm talking more about what is available on each. I'm personally more into Forza than Gran Turismo, so I'd vote with my wallet on an Xbox. Others would obviously choose otherwise. Removing the cost, and paring down the performance gap makes the differences in games a much bigger consideration than it was before on which camp to invest in.
In the end, it's great to see that Microsoft is scrambling to improve their sales numbers. This is a very clear indication that strong competition is always a good thing for us, the consumer. Had Sony went a different path with their PS4, we might have been stuck with an Xbox that required a constant internet connection, along with a camera that few people really wanted. Now, we have a company that is making changes to better compete on the merits that we as gamers truly care about - THE GAMES! Of course we will still have console exclusives like the Forza / Gran Turismo debate, and DLC exclusives like Call of Duty on Xbox, but now those are the deciding factors in our purchase. What remains to be seen is whether these changes will improve the Xbox One sales numbers enough for the bean counters at Microsoft, or are further changes coming our way?