Microsoft will launch a lower-cost version of its Xbox One video game console next month that drops the Kinect motion and voice sensor.
A $399 Xbox One without Kinect will be available in all markets where the console is sold starting June 9, Microsoft said Tuesday.
Microsoft will continue to offer Xbox One models with Kinect, which adds motion and voice controls to the device, for $499. Console owners who buy the $399 model will be able to purchase Kinect separately if they choose to upgrade.
"It's really about giving consumers choice at retail," says Xbox chief Phil Spencer of the decision.
Spencer says the introduction of a Kinect-free Xbox One does not mean Microsoft will stop supporting the sensor, first introduced on the Xbox 360 in 2010. "To be clear, as we introduce this new Xbox One console option, Kinect remains an important part of our vision," Spencer says.
Along with the less-expensive console, Microsoft announced Xbox apps such as Netflix, Hulu and ESPN will be available to all Xbox One and Xbox 360 owners. Previously, access to apps required users to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, which costs $60 a year. Microsoft will add the Games With Gold service to Xbox One next month as well. The service will provide access to free games for Xbox One users.
The change puts Xbox One on par with its primary rival, Sony's PlayStation 4, which launched last November for $399. The lower price point helped Sony jump out to a fast start in sales, topping 7 million worldwide. Meanwhile, Microsoft says more than 5 million Xbox One video game consoles were shipped to retailers.
Although PlayStation will likely maintain a sales edge globally, separating the Kinect from Xbox One should help fuel sales in the U.S. and Canada, predicts Lewis Ward, gaming research director at IDC. "We project this change will lead to enough of a console sales bump that Xbox One will emerge with the largest installed base of any console in North America by the end of 2016," he says.
The move arrives ahead of June's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game industry's largest showcase.