Microsoft caves again, on Kinect this time.

Microsoft has finally announced that they’ll start offering a Kinect-less XBox One at $399. This puts its price point on par with the PS4, which has been outselling it in spite of a handful of critically acclaimed games. 

There have been plenty of news sites pontificating on the meaning of this change. Many point out that last year when the first upset over the mandatory bundling of the Kinect arose that Microsoft was adamant that the Kinect was a key part of the system. It wasn’t meant to be just some peripheral, it was going to be the New Hotness. And yet very few games have made meaningful use of it, and very few people have found that it’s especially reliable for navigating the menus of the XBox itself. 

I could go on about how much I hate the damn thing but something else occurred to me. MS’s protestation sound very familiar and it took a moment to figure out why. It reminds me of Sony’s hardcore insistence on forcing proprietary media formats at every turn, even often to their detriment. UMD format for their handheld, Minidisc when it was up against early MP3, Laserdisc, even Betamax for fucks sake. The list is actually rather long. Of those attempts, only two off the top of my head (there may be three) stand out as a victory for them: Blu-Ray which won out over HD-DVD, and the Compact Disc format. 

So was the Kinect just Microsoft’s attempt to push the “new format” that all the others would have to follow? Possibly. I don’t know that it could be called a failure in itself. Innovation is important, but it also wasn’t a complete failure (my kid’s nonstop amusement at Kinectimals and the virtual Disneyland game… even though it can NEVER hear her barking commands… prove that it has some use).

But forced adoption so seldom works in this kind of consumer market. We’re guaranteed not to have seen the last.