Xbox One Now Available Without Kinect, Xbox Live Gold Changes

Posted by Bob Muir on May 14, 2014 in Videogames |

Xbox One

I’ll give Microsoft credit for this: they’ll stubbornly hold onto their plans, but if they’re beat over the head long enough, they will change. The Xbox One revealed a year ago required an online connection at all times and the use of a bundled Kinect camera. While the online connection was walked back within a few weeks (notably after Sony didn’t require one), but the system launched with the Kinect bundled in, making the Xbox One $100 pricier than the PS4. It seems Microsoft has finally caved on that too, because Xbox boss Phil Spencer has announced a $400 Kinect-free version, now available for preorder with a release on June 9 in every country that Xbox One has released in.

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of Kinect, especially the original version for the Xbox 360, which seemed to barely work in most environments I’ve tried it in. But while the new Kinect’s improvements still don’t interest me that much, I’ll confess to greatly enjoying the voice commands. They’re better than navigating the strangely-inefficient menu system, and though they don’t always work, they get the job done most of the time. Still, it’s better to offer the consumer choice in this matter, especially with many gamers not caring about or actively avoiding motion controls these days. Sadly, this will likely lead to a marked decrease in the amount of games designed with the Kinect in mind. (For comparison, Sony offers a similar camera peripheral for PS4, but anecdotally, I don’t know anyone who actually bought it or any games that use it outside of the PS4’s Playroom.)

What’s even better news, even for those who haven’t made the jump to current-gen, are the retooling of some Xbox Live Gold policies. While Xbox Live has long been considered the best online service on consoles, it has seemed antiquated in the last several years next to PlayStation Plus, Sony’s premium online service which offered free games each month, deep discounts, cloud saves, and other bonuses. (Online multiplayer is free on PS3, but requires a PS+ subscription on PS4.) But you never had to subscribe to PlayStation Plus to use media services like Netflix and Hulu, unlike Xbox Live, which required a Gold subscription on top of the Netflix subscription you were already paying for.

Thankfully, Microsoft is finally rethinking what that $60 a year actually pays for. Sometime in June, you’ll be able to use all media apps on Xbox 360 and Xbox One without an Xbox Live Gold subscription. That includes things like streaming other’s game footage on Twitch on Xbox One, sports apps like ESPN, and surprisingly, also includes Microsoft-made apps like Internet Explorer and OneGuide on Xbox One. This is much better for the consumer and a way to add value to the base package being offered.

Microsoft is also taking a few notes from PlayStation Plus. The company is continuing the Games with Gold program that offers a new game for subscribers to download for free about every 15 days. In addition to offering three games in June (Dark Souls, Charlie Murder, and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition) instead of the usual two, the program will be extended to Xbox One with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. This mirrors Sony offering multiple games each month on its multiple systems. On the downside, games downloaded for free on Xbox One will only stay free as long as you keep subscribing, like PlayStation Plus and unlike on Xbox 360, where you can keep the games no matter what. It’s expected, but it’s unfortunate for people like me who like to build collections and worry about preserving them. But for most people who enjoy PlayStation Plus despite this restriction, it’s acceptable since many treat PlayStation Plus as though it were a rental service.

Microsoft is also extending their Deals with Gold program, which offers sales on digital games just for Gold members, to Xbox One, with more sales, including 50-75% discounts. Some games like Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome will be included in the June sale. There will also be a “VIP room” on Xbox One just for Gold members that highlights free games, sales, and “other great benefits.” It sounds like just an easy way to know what’s currently being offered for cheap or free, but hey, maybe there’s something else there.

These Xbox Live Gold changes are a step in the right direction, particularly the change in policy for media apps. The service is now closer to PS+, but it still has a ways to go in terms of offering as much value for the consumer. PS+ still offers many more free games per month, as well as bigger and cheaper sales, with PS+ subscribers usually getting ridiculous additional discounts on top of standard sale discounts. PS+ also features much newer and hence more desirable games than Xbox Live Gold; while it’s not uncommon to see recently launched games on sale and exciting, hit games from only several months ago offered for free, Games with Gold is offering hit content from as far back as 2007, such as Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II. It’s not that these aren’t great games worth owning and playing, it’s just that many already own and played these monumental games because they’ve been out forever. And while a free digital copy of a game owned on disc still offers the smallest hint of value — I was able to play Dead Rising 2 co-op with my girlfriend thanks to a free digital copy to complement my disc copy — a free game that you already purchased digitally just means you don’t get a free game for that slot.

So while Dark Souls, Charlie Murder, and SSFIV:AE are all great games, they do seem like odd choices when Dark Souls II just came out and is holding everyone’s attention, not a ton of people are interested in every indie game (regardless of quality), and Ultra Street Fighter IV is just around the corner (making SSFIV:AE irrelevant competitively without purchasing the upgrade via DLC). If Games for Gold is going to tie the games’ free-ness to to your subscription, at least Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault are more recent games. But how much cooler would it be to take a game like Forza 5 or Ryse and release it free right now? I wasn’t interested enough to purchase either game, but if they were free, I’d certainly have a bit of fun with them. I wouldn’t even mind losing access to them down the road, because I wasn’t going to add them to my collection in the first place. Something to consider, Microsoft?

Xbox Live Gold changes

Source: Xbox Wire

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