Word slipped today that Microsoft will no longer require the Xbox One’s Kinect to be active. In fact, it won’t even have to be plugged in for the Xbox One to work. This is an about face, as back in May, when MSFT announced the Xbox One, they said the Kinect was a mandatory piece of hardware that had to be installed in order for the Xbox One to operate.
If you recall Microsoft also flipped their stance on the whole DRM thing when it came to games. This was likely a result of significant backlash from their devoted gaming community, and was further evidenced in an Amazon poll that pitted the the Xbox One against the PS4 – Sony’s system destroyed Microsoft’s gaming system in votes folds over.
That said, the Kinect will still be a mandatory purchase, which is to say there will be no Xbox One without a Kinect bundled along with it. Privacy concerns are clearly paramount, especially following the the whole Snowden NSA debacle and that very well might be why Microsoft decided to hedge their bets and remove the requirement to use the Kinect.
Speaking with IGN, Microsoft’s Marc Whitten said that you can leave it plugged in and turn everything off with the exception of its infrared feature. Needless to say, you won’t be able to play Kinect games with the sensor disabled, though if a game is launched a pop up screen will prompt gamers to turn it on.
Long terms it’s impossible to guess what will happen with the Kinect. They may eventually sell the system sans sensor, but that will likely be following a serious drop in use by both game developers and gamers.