One of the more controversial decisions Microsoft made with the Xbox One is that every console will ship with the Kinect camera and require it to be plugged in at all times. The very notion of a camera always watching you had players, and even some countries, up in arms. All that concern has turned out to be for naught.
Marc Whitten, Chief Xbox One Platform Architect, took to IGN for an "AMA" on Monday where he was asked what happens to your console when the Kinect breaks. The question was framed around the assumption that Microsoft was still requiring the Kinect to be plugged in for the console to even turn on. He said that's not the case anymore:
Games use Kinect in a variety of amazing ways from adding voice to control your squad mates to adding lean and other simple controls beyond the controller to full immersive gameplay. That said, 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.
In other words, the Kinect is no longer required for the Xbox One to function. That means that you'll be able to play games without having the Kinect plugged in as long as the game itself doesn't require the peripheral in some meaningful way.
Whitten also confirmed that players will be able to completely turn off the Kinect in the system settings:
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.
This latest reversal continues Microsoft's fine tradition of backtracking on the various policies it announced when the Xbox One was revealed in May. Since the reveal, the company has ditched the console's always-online DRM and its indie publisher restrictions. This latest reversal shows that Microsoft is actively listening to the concerns of its core consumers and is reacting accordingly.
Oh, and before you ask - Microsoft isn't going to offer an Xbox without Kinect anytime soon. The company told Kotaku that it's still going to bundle the Kinect with every Xbox One to avoid a scenario that plagued the Xbox 360 - not every console having a hard drive. In this case, having the Kinect bundled with every console will allow developers to build games with the assumption that every Xbox One has a Kinect.