Xbox One Bundles Kinect Because Microsoft Had No Choice

Well now, that makes perfect sense. Why didn't they just say so?

Microsoft has caught a lot of flack for bundling the Kinect with Xbox One.

After backpedaling on many of their initial policies, some were surprised that Microsoft didn't budge on unbundling Kinect.

Thing is, when they say it's 'required' for the console to work, they don't mean that they need Kinect to spy on you while you play CoD whether you're using the camera or not. They mean that the Kinect is literally critical to letting the newest XBox do what they've promised it will.

How? Well, that's a story that starts in the 1950's. Really.

Xbox One wants to be the one box that unifies your living room. That is not a simple task.

Your living room is a war room of competing technologies, barely held to a Cold War agreement, to support a few common electrical connections and fiat standards that have become so common, they can’t be ignored.

A mighty struggle was engaged in here. Kudos, men.

People almost never buy all their equipment from one manufacturer all at the same time.

The challenge for Xbox One (and anyone who's ever tried to hook up more than three consoles to a single TV, or install their own surround sound) is that connecting all those different gadgets is incredibly challenging, despite industry 'standards.' Manufacturers agree on some standards, but only when forced to. They routinely add their own tweaks, require codes or specific cabling without telling each other, basically operating in their own bubbles.

Emerging standards such as HDMI CEC for control devices connected via HDMI, but support for HDMI CEC is only on the newest devices. Only the most recent Tivo and almost none of the installed Verizon set top boxes support it, so that really isn’t an option for the Xbox One to lean on in the battle for your livingroom.

There is one standard that all devices do support, because they have to have it for remotes to work: Infrared.

Mmmm... Sweet progress.

Underlying all of that awesome is Infrared, which was invented by Robert Adler in the 1950s. To unify devices, you need to be able to control them all. So, if you want to overcome the warring standards, you have to go way back to the one standard that is almost ubiquitous, especially for older devices--infrared remote controls.

Xbox One reviewers have caught on that...

"Unlike the PS4, the Xbox One does not support HDMI-CEC, relying instead exclusively on IR blasting to turn on your TV and cable box..." -

But no one seems to have put together where that infrared signal is coming from. When you do, all the pieces fall into place.

Microsoft has a technology that emits gobs and gobs of Infrared: Kinect.

The Kinect is one of the most amazing inventions of modern times. That sounds like hyperbole, but the accuracy, ease of use, the motion control, and the individual person detection is just wildly superior to the other offerings, and it will get better in this generation.

if you want to overcome the warring standards, you have to go way back to the one standard that is almost ubiquitous, especially for older devices--infrared remote controls

Microsoft could have chosen HDMI CEC, but would be completely reliant on a standard which is not ubiquitous at all, leaving many Xbox One owners out in the cold on the very features intended to sell the new console.

Microsoft couldn't unbundle Kinect becase Xbox One uses Kinect's infrared blasts to control the other devices in your living room.

Without Kinect bathing your living room in Infrared, you just have a game machine. Microsoft wants to deliver much more than that.

So, if you’re wondering why their messaging was so forceful about how you “had to have Kinect” and it would be “always on” and the Xbox “would only work with Kinect connected," etc., then Infrared--a standard made useful in the 1950’s and adopted universally in the 80’s--is your answer.

Without the integration provided by Kinect bathing your living room in Infrared, you just have a game machine, and Microsoft wants to deliver much more than that. Question is...

Why didn't they just tell us that in the first place?

It would have made a lot more sense.

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Former Editor in Chief

Former Editor in Chief at GameSkinny. I am the Gray Fox. Questions, comments, feedback? Bring it. Amy.White (at)

Platforms Xbox One Tags kinect
Published Nov. 22nd 2013
  • Samuel Franklin
    Featured Contributor
    That explains alot I was really wondering why the fuss over the bundling.
  • LeviHaag
    Featured Contributor
    I think part of Microsoft's problem is that they never just came out and told the truth about many of the things people were concerned about. It seemed like whenever an issue was pointed out Microsoft pulled the "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" line and moved on.
    I really like the Xbox One but it is so mismanaged at this point I can't help but be reminded of the Dreamcast.
  • Big Chief 1
    Featured Correspondent
    You're exactly right. And more and more problems are surfacing about the console on forums, and Microsoft moderators are censoring their problems and complaints. It reminds me of the Dreamcast as well.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    that's no bueno mang.
  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    Yes! I mirrored these sentiments from the second they announced the console in May. They had an air of superiority and smugness that made me angry that my primary system was a 360. Not to mention so many conflicting policies that it made my head spin.

    I'm glad the public put them in their place with most of this stuff.

    I don't think it'll turn into a Dreamcast situation. The biggest problem with the Dreamcast was its poor marketing, followed closely by the fact that it was way ahead of its time - so much so that people were turned off by it. People are ready for the Xbox One's offerings - the fact that the thing sole over one million units in 24 hours says that people don't really care if Microsoft is the jerk big brother of the industry.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    What's the amount of radiation from that thing then? Can't be good if its a ton of IR all the time.

    Articles I read usually linked to IR from welding, none done on something like kinect.
  • RandomGuy_8044
    Okay, but that's still a terrible reason. As some one who doesn't have other gimmicky crap to use this with, it's still a useless and unnecessary feature. Had they sold a console without a kinect for just gaming they would have had my money.

  • Max Jay
    Featured Columnist
    It's useless to YOU. However there are literally thousands of consumers that would go nuts for the ability to control all of their stuff with this. It's a great idea - and the best (and only) reason they could give to bundle it in.
  • Mario_7985
    I think I would keep it a secret too since you always need an ace up your sleeve. Just wish the console was more powerful.
  • Big Chief 1
    Featured Correspondent
    Thanks for the article.
  • Proto Foe
    Senior Intern
    Great read!

    *insert slow, impressed, clapping*

    So glad that someone has put all this together :)
  • Federico Senence
    Featured Contributor
    Great info - doesn't make sense that MS wouldn't have made that more known to help combat some of the rumors and such. I'm actually more inclined to pick up my One sooner than I anticipated now. As long as all the bugs get fixed quick because we all know that it will launch with bugs (see recent PS4 issues).
  • Evil-snuggles
    Wow amazing article wow m$ will never sale a kinect less xbone.

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