When the Xbox One debuted in November 2013, you couldn’t buy it without a Kinect sensor in the box. Microsoft billed the Kinect as an integral part of the Xbox One system and assured customers it would be used in all sorts of interesting ways.
Things have changed a lot since those days. The PlayStation 4 took an early lead in console sales, thanks in part because it cost $100 less than the Xbox One with Kinect. Microsoft took a cold, honest look in the mirror and decided it needed to match the PS4’s price to become a contender, so it began offering a version of Xbox One without Kinect.
That brings us to today. Potential Xbox One customers are now faced with a choice: Buy a console with Kinect for $450, or buy a Kinect-free console for $350. It can be a tough decision, but we’ll look at the pros and cons and see if the Kinect for Xbox One is worth the cost.
What does the Kinect do?
Like a game controller, the Kinect is an input device for the Xbox One. It can be used to identify who’s playing the Xbox One, to sense the position of your body to control things on the screen, and to listen and react to voice commands.
If you buy an Xbox One with a Kinect bundled in, it adds $100 to the price of the console. If you buy a Kinect for Xbox One separately, it costs $150. That means if you haven’t bought an Xbox One yet, it would be wise to make the decision before you buy the console. It also means that the device is not cheap.
For many people, the value of the Kinect comes from the games with which it’s compatible. Here are some of the standout games released so far that use the Kinect as their primary input device.
- Kinect Sports Rivals
Metacritic Score: 60
- Xbox Fitness
Metacritic Score: 71
- Just Dance 2015
Metacritic Score: 72
- D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Metacritic Score: 77
- Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved
Metacritic Score: 77
Judging by those scores, it’s not exactly a parade of classics! But if you want to use the Xbox One as a part of your workout routine, a Kinect will go a long way toward helping you achieve that goal.
Some other games use the Kinect as an optional input device, but it’s mostly limited to voice commands that you can also implement using a controller.
Space in your room – One important consideration when thinking about buying a Kinect is whether you have enough space for it. Playing games using the Kinect means you have to stand far enough away from the device that it can “see” your entire body, and that you have enough room to flail your limbs as required by Kinect-compatible games.
Microsoft suggests standing at least 4 feet, 7 inches from the Kinect for single-player games, and 6 feet away for multiplayer games. If your gaming space can’t accommodate those minimum requirements, you should probably hold off on buying a Kinect.
Navigating the UI – As it stands now, the Xbox One’s user interface (UI) was designed to be used with the Kinect. It lets you launch apps, “snap” apps, and record snippets of gameplay just by uttering a few words. Without a Kinect, doing those things takes more time, and requires you to pick up the controller.
On the other hand, since unbundling the Kinect in 2014, Microsoft has been using its monthly software updates to make the UI more controller-friendly.
Xbox One as entertainment hub – If you plan to use the Xbox One as the centerpiece of your entertainment setup, you’ll want to consider buying a Kinect. The Kinect is used to send signals to your cable box, TV, and receiver. If you don’t have a Kinect, you’ll have to keep those remotes handy.
Here’s some bad news. Originally, Microsoft promised developers that everyone with an Xbox One would have a Kinect. That was a great incentive for game makers to incorporate Kinect functionality in their games.
Now that Microsoft has unbundled the Kinect, developers can no longer assume players have the device, which removes most of the incentive for developers to make use of it. The Kinect has effectively become an expensive add-on, which makes it very likely that fewer games will use Kinect in the future.
If you have a specific reason to want a Kinect, like you want to incorporate the Xbox One into your workout routine, or you want to be able to navigate the console’s user interface using your voice, then you’ll get plenty of use from the device.
But if your goal is to use it as an input device to play games, you might want to hold off. Very few upcoming Xbox One games will use the Kinect in any significant way. In all likelihood, the Kinect for Xbox One will become ever less necessary, just as the original Kinect did for Xbox 360.
The Kinect is great for a few specific uses. But in today’s Xbox One gaming landscape, it’s definitely not essential.
Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed
Check out Tech Cheat Sheet on Facebook
More from Tech Cheat Sheet: