That's right, folks: it's time for another Microsoft U-Turn! Though the Xbox One will still ship with Kinect as standard, the console will function if you don't plug the sensor in or fully deactivate it from the settings menu.
Xbox One chief product officer Marc Whitten, who's fast becoming the voice of Microsoft's upcoming entertainment system, confirmed the new details to IGN. “Like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor,” he revealed.
Apparently privacy-minded players can also fully deactivate the sensor. “You have the ability to completely turn the sensor off in your settings. When in this mode, the sensor is not collecting any information. Any functionality that relies on voice, video, gesture or more won’t work. We still support using it for IR blasting in this mode."
“You can turn the sensor back on at any time through settings, and if you enter into a required Kinect experience (like Kinect Sports Rivals for instance), you’ll get a message asking if you want to turn the sensor back on in order to continue.”
Originally, Microsoft suggested that Xbox One simply wouldn't function without the peripheral, but this latest policy U-turn will come as welcome news to many. Instead of forcing players to use the peripheral, Whitten hopes that the carrot will be infinitely more effective than the stick.
"It makes gaming better in many ways - from the ability to say 'Xbox On' and get right to your personalised homescreen, to the ability to control your TV through voice, Smartglass and more," he argued. "Kinect allows you to search for your content, instantly move between games and your personalised dash and more with just your voice. Kinect helps you pick up and play by automatically knowing which controller you have in your hands. No more need to interrupt your friends game or navigate through multiple UI screens to sign in and tell the system which controller you are holding."
Personally, we reckon that the Kinect-enabled UI could well be one of the Xbox One's major selling points, though we'll naturally need to test it out before making any value judgements.
This new about-face is just the latest in a string of crowd-pleasing reversals following a vocal backlash against some of the more controversial Xbox One features - a response that Peter Molyneux recently described as "unfair."
So, now, the big question remains: will Microsoft reveal a Kinect-less Xbox One package to compete with the PS4 on price? They've stringently denied it, but when it comes to Xbox One, seemingly nothing is set in stone.