Kinect No Longer Mandatory For Xbox One (But Will Still Come With It) [UPDATE]S

Another backflip? Back in May, Microsoft said that you'll need have the motion-sensing Kinect plugged in at all times in order for your Xbox One to function, but now they're reversing course once again.

We already knew that you could turn off the Kinect, but now Microsoft says it doesn't have to be plugged in at all. Speaking to IGN, Microsoft's Marc Whitten shared the news that the Xbox One will indeed work without Kinect.

"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," he said.

Asked just how "off" the Kinect can be when it is plugged in, Whitten answered totally off.

"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 is yet another entry to add to the list of stunning reversals in Xbox One policy made by Microsoft over the past few months. In June, Microsoft switched course on Xbox DRM, and they've flipped on all sorts of other policies since then.

Microsoft has said they have no intentions of selling an Xbox One without Kinect, so the Kinect is still mandatory in that sense. But Microsoft has changed their minds once or twice before.

The Xbox One will cost $500, Microsoft has said. That's with the Kinect. For comparison, the PS4 will be $400. The Wii U premium package costs $350.

UPDATE: A Microsoft spokesman has answered a couple of our questions:

Can games that use Kinect for supplemental features and commands still be played without Kinect, or will any game that uses Kinect at *all* need the Kinect plugged in?

If Kinect is only used to enable supplemental features in a particular title, then you will still be able to play that game if Kinect is unplugged. Games where Kinect is required – like “Kinect Sports Rivals,” for example – will of course need the sensor to be plugged in.

Does Microsoft still have no intentions of selling a Kinect-free bundle?

Though we’ve changed this requirement, Kinect is still an essential and integrated part of the Xbox One platform. By having it as a consistent part of every Xbox One, game and entertainment creators can build experiences that assume the availability of voice, gesture and natural sensing, leading to unrivaled ease of use, premium experiences and interactivity for consumers. We also strongly believe that once you try the all-new Kinect and the game and entertainment experiences it enhances or enables, you won’t want to use your Xbox One without it.

And here's Microsoft senior exec Albert Penello, posting on NeoGAF about the flip. (Bolded emphasis mine)

We still believe in Kinect. We aren’t interested in splitting the development base. The more demos I’ve seen, the more I’ve used it – the more impressed I am. The team feels strongly about Kinect, and I hope we’re able to prove that when you use it.

We also have a ton of privacy settings to allow people to turn off the camera, or microphones, or put it in a state just for “Xbox On” and IR blasting – there will be a lot of user control for that.

The thing we all understood, and hence this change, is that there are some scenarios where people just may not be comfortable. We wanted people to be 100% comfortable, so we allow the sensor to be unplugged. And clearly the “it dropped” scenario is possible.

The most obvious thing is watching a DVD/BD, or streaming a movie, or HDMI pass-through, your experience isn’t impacted (except you miss voice and IR blasting)

There is no “gotcha”, but obviously, if there is a game that REQUIRES Kinect (like Rivals), or something where Kinect IS the experience (like Skype), those won’t work.

That said, for people who have privacy concerns there are user control settings, which we believe are great.