PS4's Camera Optional
As launch dates for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One inch closer, the technical specifications of the two systems have grown incredibly similar. Microsoft has made a few tweaks that have helped to speed up the system to make it more on par with the PS4, so gamers should not notice much of a difference in game performance between the two systems.
Additionally, Microsoft has made some reversals in policy - like the always-online requirement and not allowing used games - that make it line up with the PS4 even more.
Xbox and PS4 version of third party titles like Battlefield 4, Watch Dogs, or Assassin's Creed IV will probably be indistinguishable from each other. But there is still one glaring difference that clearly defines who will win the next generation console war.
The Line in the Sand
Microsoft has stated that Kinect is integral to the system performing the way as intended, and while they have acknowledged it is not required for the system to operate, they have said they will never sell Xbox One without it. They have invested so much into the functionality of the camera and audio technology that they feel it would cheapen the experience to offer the console by itself.
Sony, while they do have a new version of the PlayStation camera, are not mandating it be included with the sale of the PS4. The device will purely be optional, and game developers can either create games that offer unique experiences when used with the camera or ignore it completely. It is up to them. Sony believes, however, that many developers will find the device interesting enough to want to develop for it, but gamers remain more skeptical.
The line in the sand has been clearly drawn on the issue of this accessory. Purchasing the Xbox One will cost $499 while PS4 is $399, meaning gamers are paying $100 for the camera, whether they intend to use it or not. And that is, quite simply, the issue that people must face.
Whether or not gamers ever even plug in Kinect, they will be paying for it. Whether or not they buy any Kinect exclusive games, they will be paying for it. Whether or not they take advantage of the ability to say, "Xbox On" and have their console immediately turn on, they are paying for it. And in Sony's eyes, this is a clear disservice to the fans.
Sony Chooses Choice
Sony's UK Managing Director Fergal Gera told Eurogamer that forcing a console/camera bundle exhibits a mindset of being "against consumer choice." Gara said that forcing gamers to buy a camera with their console,
"...does not offer the gamer the choice, and therefore the most sensible thing to do as a gamer friendly brand is give them the choice. And I'm absolutely delighted we've done that. There is an advanced, sophisticated camera-based technology there as an option for PS4, but it's not a requirement. I'm really pleased with that decision."
In the end, Microsoft is banking on the success of the Xbox One as a whole. They anticipate people will love the exclusive games, the system software, and the overall, everyday experience of interacting with their Xbox through Kinect.
Sony has buckled down in focusing on gamers and offering the experience they believe gamers truly want. Their philosophies this time around are, “if it's not good for the gamer, then it's not good for Sony.” Time will tell which strategy resonates more with people, but it's clear that the camera accessory issue is a huge battleground.
And one has to wonder, if sales don't go as well for the Xbox One, how long will it take for them to make another reversal in policy and begin offering a camera-free Xbox One?