Microsoft said Tuesday it will offer a version of its Xbox One videogame console for $399 without the Kinect motion control sensor starting June 9 in all markets, and give Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners access to entertainment apps like Netflix and HBO Go whether or not they have an Xbox Live Gold membership -- a significant move to promote use of the console as more of an entertainment hub just as Xbox Entertainment Studios is about to launch its first slate of original series like a live action "Halo."
Xbox owners -- and those considering buying one -- have long lamented the fact that they needed an Xbox Live Gold membership (that costs $60 a year) to access apps like Netflix, which they were already paying for, making the consoles unattractive compared to Sony's PlayStation which has been making the same apps available for free.
Univision Deportes, GoPro, Red Bull TV and HBO GO, the WWE Network, NFL app for Xbox One, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center. Microsoft experiences including Internet Explorer, Skype, OneDrive and OneGuide will also be available to all Xbox customers.
The company needed to come up with an incentive to sell more Xbox Ones.
Its rival Sony has priced the PlayStation 4 at $399 since launch in November and sold more than 7 million units worldwide, the company said in April.
It was expected that Microsoft would unbundle the Kinect from the Xbox One, but many analysts thought that would happen next year, including IDC's research director Lewis Ward, who said the move "should lead to rough price parity with the PS4 and reset the sales dynamic at retail. 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. The PS4 should still lead globally, but the unbundling of Kinect and Xbox One should move the sales needle enough to give Xbox One the installed base edge in the United States and Canada before the end of 2016."
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Microsoft also plans to bolster the appeal of its subscriptions by adding its "Games with Gold" and discount program to Xbox One in June, as well, giving Xbox Live Gold members access to free games, starting with "Max: The Curse of Brotherhood" and "Halo: Spartan Assault." Since "Games with Gold" launched on Xbox 360 a year ago, over 12 million people have played free games, Spencer said. Members with an Xbox 360 will receive an additional free game in June.
Phil Spencer, Microsoft's head of Xbox, was quick to downplay any distancing from the Kinect on Microsoft's part, saying "Kinect remains an important part of our vision," and citing that more than 80% of Xbox One owners use Kinect.
A standalone Kinect sensor will become available to purchase in the fall. A separate Xbox One bundled with the Kinect will continue to be sold for $499.
The Kinect offers voice and gesture controls, biometric sign-in, instant personalization, scanning of QR codes, and features only available with games like "Kinect Sports Rivals," "Just Dance 2014," and "Project Spark."
Xbox One Drops to $399 in June, Gives Free Access to Netflix, HBO Go, Other Apps
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