UPDATE: Upon hearing the news that the Xbox One will be entirely functional without the Kinect even plugged in, many of you assumed that it would be only a matter of time before Microsoft flip-flopped on it's decision to include the motion-sensing camera with all consoles for a whopping £429.
Not so, says Microsoft, who shot down this popular theory in a recent Reddit thread. When asked if the console manufacturer was considering a Kinect-less SKU, Xbox Live director of programming Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb replied, "We have no plans for that. We are 100 per cent all in on Kinect."
So there you have it. Of course, Microsoft could change its mind again - it's been known to happen - but it seems like it's pretty steadfast about this one and it's going to be £429 or bust I'm afraid.
Original Story: For a long time Microsoft insisted that its creepy HAL-like motion sensing camera Kinect would have to be on for the Xbox One to function, but in Microsoft's rapid plea to make players happy it's now announced that you'll be able to play Xbox One not only with the sensor off, but not even plugged in.
Xbox One chief product officer Marc Whitten revealed this new option in an interview with IGN. "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," he said.
He also noted that you can keep the Kinect sensor plugged in and simply turn all of its features off, if you so desire. "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."
That being said, Whitten highly suggests people give the new Kinect a go as it makes navigating the console's UI easier. "It makes gaming better in many ways - from the ability to say 'Xbox On' and get right to your personalised homescreen, to the ability to control your TV through voice, Smartglass and more," he stated. "Kinect allows you to search for your content, instantly move between games and your personalised dash and more with just your voice. Kinect helps you pick up and play by automatically knowing which controller you have in your hands. No more need to interrupt your friends game or navigate through multiple UI screens to sign in and tell the system which controller you are holding."
Microsoft senior exec Albert Penello shared Whitten's enthusiasm for Kinect on a NeoGAF thread, where he boasted about its detailed customisation settings. "We also have a ton of privacy settings to allow people to turn off the camera, or microphones, or put it in a state just for 'Xbox On' and IR blasting - there will be a lot of user control for that."
That being said, he acknowledged that not everyone is comfortable with this device monitoring them, even if Microsoft has insisted that that's not at all what it's doing. "The thing we all understood, and hence this change, is that there are some scenarios where people just may not be comfortable. We wanted people to be 100 per cent comfortable, so we allow the sensor to be unplugged."
He further noted that your experience watching a movie wouldn't be impacted by Kinect being unplugged, aside from not being able to use voice and IR blasting. And, of course, there are some games that will still require Kinect, much as things are now.
"For people who have privacy concerns there are user control settings, which we believe are great," he concluded.