Microsoft changes heart (again): Xbox One will work without the Kinect plugged in

Ask any gamer: Sometimes, things only get better with a restart. Microsoft seems to be taking the tenet to heart with its upcoming video game console, as yet another controversial Xbox One feature is being rolled back in the wake of consumer backlash. This time, it's the Kinect sensor's always plugged-in requirement getting the boot.

“The console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in,” Xbox One platform architect Marc Whitten recently told IGN. “Although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.”

There has been a lot of interest in how the Xbox One Kinect would function as the motion sensor is featured as a major selling point for the new console—so much so that Microsoft originally said that the console wouldn't function unless the Kinect was connected.

Gamers were concerned about privacy after reports that the Kinect for Xbox One would be in an “always on” state listening in as it waited for commands. In June, Microsoft clarified that you could turn off the Kinect along with the rest of the system, and it would only be listening for the command “Xbox On” to power up the system.

But that’s not entirely the case either. During the same interview with IGN, Whitten said you can turn off the Kinect sensor completely in the Xbox One’s settings. When in this mode, the Kinect won’t collect any information at all and obviously won’t work with games, but its IR blasting functionality will still work.

Love it or hate it, the Kinect is going to be an integral part of the Xbox One experience. You’ll need the Kinect to use the Xbox One’s voice control, work with Smartglass, or make a Skype call. The Kinect can also bind a controller to your console automatically, and, of course, it is expected to be integrated into many forthcoming Xbox One games.

Now you see it, now you don’t

Gamers have been frustrated in recent months by Microsoft’s habit of slowly doling out information about the Xbox One only to see the information reversed a few weeks later.

Microsoft’s Kinect reversal follows an announcement in June to drop the company’s original DRM plans for the new console that would have made it harder to play used games. The company also dumped plans to region lock games and require Xbox One consoles to phone home to Microsoft once per day.

Even with the apparent downgrade for the Kinect on the new console, Microsoft won't sell a Kinect-free Xbox One when it hits store shelves later this year, a company spokesperson told Kotaku. Instead, you’ll still be paying $500 for a basic package that includes the console, headset, one controller, and yes, the Kinect sensor.

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