In an interview out today, Microsoft confirms that it’s planning to kill off a major feature of the Xbox One. Since 2013 Xbox One owners have been able to navigate the entertainment console’s entire interface with just a wave of their hand if they have a Kinect sensor. Soon, that won’t be an option for anyone.
Microsoft’s Mike Nichols confirms that the New Xbox One Experience doesn’t support gestures in an interview session with Polygon. Nichols is Microsoft’s chief marketing officer for the Xbox platform and services. The revelation came Nichols answered questions about how many Xbox One owners use a Kinect sensor to interact with the console. At launch, Microsoft bundled a Kinect sensor with every Xbox One console so that buyers could use their hands to navigate the interface and their voice to go from menu to menu or start a game.
The sensor also lets the Xbox One communicate with television sets and audio equipment. Microsoft began selling Xbox Ones without a Kinect sensor last year to get the console’s price down to $349.
“Now we’re not designing for everyone who has it or everyone doesn’t have it. We’re designing for a good chunk who have it and use it and some new customers who now have decided to get an Xbox One who don’t have a Kinect, at least not yet.”
Nichols says, “That [Kinect gesture support for the interface] currently exists in the Xbox One experience, but we found so few people use it. Why should we keep designing for that scenario?”
He poses a fair question. Microsoft originally pushed the Kinect as a new way of interacting with Xbox. Back then the company hoped to be the only living room entertainment console that users needed. At its Xbox One Revealed event in 2013 Microsoft revealed that the Xbox One would have live television integration for users to manage their cable or satellite boxes with and music and video apps that allow users to play game while watching television or a video on YouTube.
Since the whole family would use an Xbox One, the Kinect would sign them in automatically and show them their stuff. It’s a future that never came to pass. Microsoft didn’t have any Kinect specific games ready for shoppers at launch and did a pretty poor job at telling people Kinect gestures were something that could use. Microsoft still sells Kinect bundles, but also has a separate Kinect for users who want to purchase it to improve their gaming and entertainment experience after they’ve picked up a cheap Xbox One bundle.
If there aren’t a lot of people taking advantage of the feature it makes sense to get rid of it. Microsoft began letting video game developers snatch away power from Kinect gestures last year. After that update developers could tell the Xbox One that their game didn’t require Kinect gestures to function. Voice commands still worked in these apps, but gestures didn’t. To use a gesture players had to go back to the Xbox One Dashboard. Microsoft also stopped requiring app makers to support Kinect gestures too, it seems.
To be clear, it seems Microsoft is keeping voice gestures around, though it doesn’t discuss how many Kinect owners use that feature either. Microsoft does seem to be invested in providing voice support. We already know that the New Xbox One Experience will pick up Microsoft’s Cortana digital personal assistant sometime in the new year. Cortana does use Kinect to listen for voice commands. It seems that users will be able to use Cortana with their chat headset too. Polygon confirms as much in its report.
The Xbox One is on sale now for $349, with a half-dozen or so new bundles coming for the Holiday 2015 shopping season. The New Xbox One Experience arrives as a mandatory Xbox One update for all this November.