Microsoft successfully completed its transformation of the Xbox One into the PlayStation 4 today, announcing that the system will soon be sold without a Kinect camera included. This likely represents the last reversal in a throng of backtracks, and the decision has presumably been made in response to the device’s disappointing sales figures, which have seen it slump behind Sony’s system in recent months. As of 1st April, the Redmond-based firm had shipped five million units, whereas its Japanese sparring partner had sold a significantly more impressive seven million units. It’s almost certain that that gap has grown even larger over the past month or so.
Before we delve into some analysis, though, what exactly does the Redmond-based organisation’s latest one-eighty entail? The firm’s framing it as a move to offer “more choices” for consumers, but it’s clear that its focus on controller-free gaming has fallen flat. As such, a separate model without the controversial camera will be sold alongside the existing package for £349.99/$399.99. This will launch on 9th June, while a standalone Kinect will be made available later in the year. The fact that it won’t be on shelves day and date with this new package strikes us as odd, and perhaps indicates that – irrespective of its comments to the contrary – it’s considering putting the peripheral out to pasture.
The Xbox One has abandoned its original vision at this point, and merely reinvented itself as a less powerful PS4 with green branding
Most importantly, the move places the platform at price parity with the PS4. This is the second official cost cut that the Windows maker has made this year, with the system’s price sticker previously being slashed in the UK shortly before the release of Titanfall. Despite this – and countless retailer promotions around the globe, though – the console couldn’t keep pace with Sony’s system, even falling behind the Japanese giant’s format in North America during the launch month of its most anticipated game. This latest reduction should heat up the rivalry in the format war once more, with both firms now forced to fight on a level playing field.
However, while we can appreciate the rapid response from Microsoft’s management team, we can’t help but feel that this incessant chopping and changing flags a complete lack of direction within the Xbox division. In addition to the removal of the Kinect, the firm also announced improvements to its 'Games with Gold' program – effectively borrowing the features of PlayStation Plus – while also freeing entertainment applications such as Netflix from behind the Xbox Live paywall. These are all necessary tweaks that it should have made eons ago, but they all feel reactionary rather than revolutionary; the Xbox One has essentially abandoned its original vision at this point, and merely reinvented itself as, well, a less powerful PS4 with green branding. Even with our inherent bias set aside, we’re not entirely sure what sets it apart.
Sony is blazing the right trail, and even though Microsoft is desperately trying to catch the PS4’s slipstream, it’s still got a lot of ground to cover
And that’s something that Microsoft will have to prove at E3 next month, as, while this closes the gap between the two consoles one more time, we still feel like Sony is in the driving seat. Make no mistake, the Japanese giant’s going to find it difficult to continue to utterly dominate in the UK and North America once this change actually takes place, but it’s not going to massively upset the manufacturer’s momentum at all – especially given the manner in which the release calendar has shaken out. Consumers will still have to make a choice, of course, but with word of the PS4’s superior hardware rife, we can’t see it suddenly falling behind at the same price.
And yet even if it does, it’s still clear that Sony holds all of the cards. Way back at E3 last year – when everyone was expecting the next-gen battle to be distinctly more even – group president Andrew House admitted that it had engineered the console in order to be able to compete on price much faster than its previous format. It took years for the PlayStation 3 to reach a favourable asking fee compared to the Xbox 360, but you get the sense that – even with the poor financial fortunes of Sony as a whole – it could afford to undercut the Xbox One’s new comparative price point should it need to. Given how sales are tracking, that’s unlikely to happen, but the option appears to be there.
Whatever happens next, we’re sure that Sony executives will be reminding each other that imitation is the greatest form of flattery as it soaks up today’s news in its various offices around the globe. Not only has the platform holder forced Microsoft to reverse its stance on used games, but it’s also made it reconsider its self-publishing policies, and now strong armed it into changing the direction of its entire box. That shows that the Japanese giant is blazing the right trail, and even though the Redmond-based manufacturer is desperately trying to place its device in the PS4’s slipstream, it’s still got a lot of ground to cover before it even comes close to catching up.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s latest Xbox One reversal? Do you think that the system has lost its identity without the Kinect camera included? Are you tempted to pick up one of the platforms now that it possesses a lower price? Let us know in the comments section below.
Do you think Sony will now struggle to keep its next-gen lead? (95 votes)
Yes, the Xbox One is going to come back strong following this move
Hmm, it’s too early to say
No, the PS4 is still in the driving seat and will not lose momentum yet
Please login to vote in this poll.