It's not hard to hand it to Microsoft
. The company is clearly paying attention to what the gamers want and what they don't want. Sure, some may say—with perhaps a note or two of cynicism—that Microsoft is merely following the money, but whether it's out of a desire to protect the bottom line or build good will among the gaming community, the end result is still comparatively the same.
In this most recent case, it's sort of a good news / bad news setting. Remember the idea that one day Microsoft might put together an Xbox One
package that didn't boast a Kinect
? That idea, sadly, may never come to pass. But the good news in this situation is that it's not strictly necessary any more. Much like the always-on DRM and the always-on connection, Microsoft has announced that the Kinect is no longer necessary to make the Xbox One run.
But Microsoft is eager for users to try the Kinect, and is actively encouraging developers to make games as though everyone was using a Kinect. A Microsoft spokesperson talking to GamesBeat--part of VentureBeat--said that “Xbox One is still designed to work best with Kinect plugged in. Though we've changed this requirement, Kinect is still an essential and integral part of the Xbox One platform. By having it as a consistent part of every Xbox One, game and entertainment creators can build experiences that assume the availability of voice, gesture and natural sensing.” Further, said spokesperson went on to say “We strongly believe that once you try the all-new Kinect and the game and entertainment experiences it enhances or enables, you won't want to use your Xbox One without it.”
It's hard to fault Microsoft for taking such a stance. Indeed, the Kinect is an unusual experience, and has been since it was first introduced. But the problem--and to Microsoft's credit it looks like it's discovering just that—is that Microsoft was leaning too much on “must” and not enough on “should.” Suggestions are usually taken better than commands, and Microsoft was pushing too hard to make its experience everyone else's. That put a lot of gamers off, and resulted in a lot of the backlash that Microsoft found itself up against. Microsoft has likely discovered here that the more force it uses, the less the gaming community likes it. Indeed, offer the Kinect as an option! Some will doubtless love it, and buy accordingly. But forcing everyone to use a Kinect or have the system turn into a pricey paperweight? Not anyone's idea of awesome experience, even if it turns out to be terrific.
Microsoft may well be seeing first-hand the difference between consensus and coercion, and gamers are likely themselves liking the difference. Bring all the options you want to the table, Microsoft—but just remember to let the gamers make the final call as to what options they select.