The Xbox One is back -- without a Kinect, and for $100 USD cheaper.
That, in a nutshell, is the pitch for the new $400 (£399 in the UK) Xbox One, which goes on sale on June 9. The new price matches that of its archrival, the Sony PlayStation 4.
It's a huge reversal for Microsoft, which had previously talked up the $500 (£399 UK price) of the Xbox One with the bundled Kinect 2.0 to be the undisputed ruler of the living room, combining home theater control with compelling interactive entertainment. Of course, customers will still have the option to purchase the Kinect/Xbox One bundle for $500. Microsoft has said Kinect will also be sold as a separate accessory later this year, but we don't have any definitive pricing on that.
The other big change to the Xbox platform, also effective June 9, is that Xbox Live Gold is no longer required to use basic media apps (like Netflix, Watch ESPN, Hulu Plus, and the like). That means you only need the Gold plan (about $60 per year) if you're interested in online multiplayer gaming and Xbox's subscription game plan. This, again, brings the Xbox world (including 360 owners) more in line with Sony's PlayStation Plus subscription plan.
In other words, the Xbox One is now more affordable than ever before. But is it a good enough deal to finally take the next-gen plunge -- especially versus the still tantalizing PS4? I examine those very questions below. But if you're interested in a deeper dive of the Xbox One platform, check out our original review of the $500 first. (We'll update both soon after the E3 show in mid-June.)
A better deal all around
Let's start things off simply. A $400 Xbox One is obviously more competitive than a $500 one. Now that Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can both be had for the same amount of cash, it puts pressure on the lists of exclusive software and out-of-the-box functionality for each system.
Add in the removal of the onerous "Xbox Live tax," and it's safe to say that Microsoft has done a solid job of removing our two biggest complaints about the system.
Only on Xbox
Fans of Xbox franchises like Halo, Fable, Forza, and of upcoming titles like Sunset Overdrive and Quantum Break no longer need a $500 investment to secure the right to play those titles.
Microsoft has also upped its Games with Gold program (which requires Xbox Live Gold) that offers a limited amount of free games on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It's a noble effort, though it still doesn't match PlayStation Plus' similar program, which offers a much larger library of free games.