Kinect costs "almost as much" as Xbox One to make, says dev

Microsoft employee opens up in Reddit AMA

A Reddit 'Ask me anything' session with someone claiming to be an App developer working on the Xbox One has revealed a great deal about the internal perception of the console's reception so far, as well as some more concrete facts about the machine.

Although the questions were answered under conditions of anonymity, the developer offered enough proof to Reddit moderators to be 'verified' as a genuine Xbox One employee. The exchange, which allows any Reddit user to post questions, took place on Saturday July 13. Previous AMAs have involved Barack Obama, Louis CK and Aisha Taylor, the actress and voicework specialist who presented Ubisoft's E3 conference.

In the AMA on Xbox One the mystery developer answered questions on a broad-range of subjects including hardware, Kinect, digital sharing and the confused nature of the early marketing messages surrounding the machine's launch. One of the most black and white pieces of information revealed is that the Kinect sensor, a compulsory piece of hardware for the One, is almost as expensive to produce as the console itself.

"The majority of the masses care only about the console, except that the success of the Kinect carries much more weight to us. The sensor costs almost as much as the console to make."

Asked what the most under-appreciated or little known about selling point of the One was, the developer replied that Kinect was seen as extremely important internally, and for good reason.

"The majority of the masses care only about the console," they wrote. "Except that the success of the Kinect carries much more weight to us. The sensor costs almost as much as the console to make.

"The goal with having a Kinect ship with every Xbox is to guarantee to game developers if they implement Kinect features into their games, everyone who has an Xbox will be able to experience it. I often see people dismiss the Kinect instantly because they haven't seen it work like I have. It is an integral part of the Xbox One experience."

There was also a clear indication that there's a considerable degree of regret about the reversal of the company's DRM policies within the Redmond offices, with the contributor expressing disappointment at the removal of digital sharing options, particularly.

"Personally I was a little surprised at the timeframe which we decided on the DRM reversal," they write. "I thought we didn't push on its benefits enough. The petition shows there are lots of people who want these benefits as much as I do and clearly our execs care or Marc Whitten wouldn't have referred to it in his IGN interview.

"It was for full games," was the answer when asked for clarification on digital sharing. "Can't comment too much on this but its purpose was to eliminate the need to ever have to physically hand someone a game that you bought to share with them."

Asked to detail the team's thoughts about the less than glowing public reception to the details on DRM and check-in which followed E3, the developer was surprisingly frank.

"One of our execs had mentioned a Sony dev came up to him at E3 and told him 'you won the games, we won the gamers."

"My purpose here is not to reveal technical information but to show you that us devs are consumers too. Some of the policies we too only heard the day of the reveal or at E3. We too, ponder about their pros and cons. I can tell you we have heated discussions on our policies all the time internally. Engineering practices have taught us there are always trade offs. We lay out all the benefits of different policies and figure out what we have to give up in order to obtain those benefits.

"The positive comments we read make us happy. The negatives give us the impression that we are evil and the Xbox One might as well be the Troll box. I have confidence in our management that all their decisions are always well debated before they come to a plan of action."

One final insight came from a question about the perception on the ground at E3 after the Sony conference, during which the Japanese manufacturer took great pains to highlight a complete lack of DRM on second-hand sales.

"It was quite moot," came the reply. "One of our execs had mentioned a Sony dev came up to him at E3 and told him 'you won the games, we won the gamers.'"

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Latest comments (21)

Craig Burkey Software Engineer 8 years ago
The problem with Kinect is that its still unproven, they've been pushing it for the 360 for awhile now and its got the impression that its only use is for dancing games. There aren't even tech demo's to demonstrate how it could be used, that could provoke the imagination of gamers. If I were MS I'd of gone through some prototypes and got them out there like Nintendo did with Wii Sports and Nintendo Land.

At the moment it just appears to be expensive Microphone that people don't understand why its needed when the voice commands could be issued through a headset that 360's were bundled with in the first place.
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Is it not an issue for people that with built in Kinect the Xbox now has to be placed in front of you under the screen no matter how your room is currently laid out?
I'll get me coat but I still think its odd.
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Jack Pochop Studying Telecommunications, Indiana University8 years ago
I think it's high time we stop trying to throw the PS4 and Xbox One into a pit with one another. E3 has been over for a month now, and the status quo on both systems has been established. Pending some major re-reversal, these are the systems we are going to see come this Holiday. I'd like to see some more insight as to what the Xbox One will do now, as opposed to what it could have done had the company not pulled its '180.' Otherwise, why change the system at all? It's obviously more complicated than that, but still, stop dwelling on the past!
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Show all comments (21)
Paul Shirley Programmers 8 years ago
@Craig: no, the problem with Kinect is we have a new console generation with 2 nearly identical consoles, both more compatible with PC than any previous generation. It's a foregone conclusion 99% of all games will be portable across consoles and many on PC as well. That's a compelling reason not to waste much effort on cutting edge use of Kinect.

Until XBone takes a sales lead, Kinect will remain a glorified remote control for Microsofts media centre plans. If MS insist on bundling to support wider corporate planning maybe they should subsidise it more, gamers just don't seem interested in it or the remote control features it's really aimed at.
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Jean-Marc Wellers Assistant Online Services, Ubisoft8 years ago
Sigh... I just want to see what will be available at launch. Stop the marketing madness ^^. Whatever MS chooses to do, I am sure it will think of what the box can offer to the gamers (and non-gamers) for their best interest.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
Interesting - I'll have to read the full script when I get home.

"The positive comments we read make us happy. The negatives give us the impression that we are evil and the Xbox One might as well be the Troll box.

So, when someone agrees with you everything is okay and that you're on the right course but when someone doesn't you think that they're wrong? Maybe the full quote will reveal more to this quote but as it stands in the article above it makes me worried about the mentality within the Xbox division.

IMO, the correct course of action is to question even when people agree with you (why do they agree?) and not then have childish responses when people don't agree with you - even if their position is very negative and not well-presented.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 15th July 2013 3:12pm

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship8 years ago
I think MS have fundamentally misjudged the willingness of developers to include meaningful Kinect-driven content. Even with every Xbox One containing one, the vast majority of games are still going to be multi-platform. Will developers, when faced with the prospect of dramatically diverging their codebase, really go for it? Or will they simply add a few token kinect features for the xbox version. In which case, you're looking at the few first-party games to really deliver. And they didn't last time.
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All very valid observations - but fundamentally, after the appalling failure of 'Steel Battalion HA' (2012) to achieve even half of its Kinect promised :
Wiki -
...the game as a whole has been widely panned as unplayable due to the inability of the Kinect to accurately read the player's movements
The development community (other than the VR and homebrew PC SDK users) have cooled to support this peripheral. It will be very hard to force the AAA-publishers to support this system without a upsurge in interest.
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David Serrano Freelancer 8 years ago
@Jean-Marc Wellers

Microsoft board members, the people who make all major decisions, have a fiduciary duty to always act the best interests of the company and it's shareholders. So whatever they decide will be in the best interests of the company, the shareholders and themselves... not the consumer. They care about the needs of consumers in the same way ranchers care about the needs of livestock.
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David Serrano Freelancer 8 years ago
"The goal with having a Kinect ship with every Xbox is to guarantee to game developers if they implement Kinect features into their games, everyone who has an Xbox will be able to experience it."

MS increased the retail price of the console by up to $100 as an insurance policy for developers? The same company which butt rapes developers with royalty and certification fees? Yeah.. right. MS's only goal is to have a new marketing / analytic data profit center ship with every Xbox.

"One of our execs had mentioned a Sony dev came up to him at E3 and told him 'you won the games, we won the gamers."

Both lost the games because both (so far) will be defined by the same types of games which now consistently average a single digit percentage sell through rate in the installed base. Which means both lost the gamers because neither gave 360 and PS3 owners who've stopped buying and playing these types of games (over 70 percent) a reason to invest $400 to $600 in a new system.
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John -
Why's it so expensive?
The reason is that MS have to pay an incredibly high royalties to the Israeli company they acquired the hardware concept from... Unlike the hyped media launch of the Kinect that failed to mention that the hardware was not originated by MS!
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises8 years ago
The best use for Kinect on 360 was with Skyrim, yelling QUICKSAVE at it to save your game instead of going through 20 menu items with the controller.

It had the bonus effect that it would listen to the NPC conversations from the game, and randomly decide to use a shout attack, usually setting everyone nearby on fire. Now I know why the guards in that game were always telling me to go cast my fancy magic someplace else, it's dangerous!!
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
The history of any controller can be summed up like this:

less latency
tinier and tinier input motions
more buttons (input signs)

The Kinect has a long way to go to be anything else than a novelty. Forget Tom Cruise flailing his arms around, think more people being seemingly motionless. If you did not know they were issuing gesture commands, you would not even notice. Granted, showing how people play looks good in stylized TV ads. If that is what Microsoft decides to spend half its budget on, then it can certainly be called risky and PR focused.
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Every gamer I know hates Kinect.
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Kareem Merhej Designer, infoLink-inc8 years ago
Poor Microsoft?

I feel they just don't get it. Or maybe they get it more than I think.

Many, many gamers just don't care about Kinect. Not a single one I personally know and maaaybe 2% of people I know online. It's not because it's unproven. We're just not interested in a control device that isn't a... controller. I want to sit on a couch or a bean bag or chair and lean back, relax, and play games with a controller in my hand. I don't want to stand or raise my arm up or talkshout at the tv or any of that. Maybe there will be a handful of interactive experiences like that that are fun but there's just no way it becomes the norm. Contrast the Kinect to the Occulus Rift, which is primed to just explode in popularity. It's an add-on to the controller. In fact it frees up control space. From a multi-plat development stand-point the Kinect is just a tangent. Unless MS pays me to develop for it.. why would I? Literally no other device could make *legitimate* use of those same features.

I say MS may know that because I believe Kinect is much more about simple gestures and voice recognition - it's a TV solution, more than anything. Which does raise the question of why you would spend so much money developing it though...

To end this long-ass post...

If the Kinect is roughly as expensive as an Xbox One, and I need a Kinect to have Xbox One - what happens when my Kinect breaks? Or I break it? How much is a new one? Who will sell it?
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Ben Campbell Graphic Designer / Freelance Games Journalist 8 years ago
Stop the marketing madness.
Short version (and more accurate description of this whole thing): Microsoft Employee: "Gamers don't understand Kinec 2.0 like we do and the fact that Reddit will become the home for our viral marketing"

Long version: I am surprised that no one has caught onto the fact that this entire AMA session is probably Microsoft's Marketing Team atrying to pull the reigns back a bit from the E3 debacle, by having the developer posting under the guise of anonymity, being able to give credible evidence that he is a XBone employee, tickling all the right places of the right people with just enough information to get people on board with the kinect.

So that they mollified somewhat from Microsoft's complete and utter disrespect for it's audience, while smugly looking down on all the people from their ivory throne inside the international space station.

And you know what, Microsoft is actually right in doing so, if people are going to so easily be taken in by a reddit AMA session that so blindingly clear seems to be trying to market the Kinect to people who will listen to the drivel about it being an "anonymous app developer". How gamers "just don't understand" the Kinect because they "haven't seen it work like I have" and listening to what is so clearly a thinly veiled attempt at trying to get gamers on their side again.

Despite all of this, I did LIKE Microsoft at one point, I really did, I own an original Xbox, a 360 and of course a PC, but that whole #dealwithit really irked me at how smarmy and smug they could be, not that it would have affected me in the slightest in any case, but just because he was being a complete and utter arrogant twat. I wouldn't be one of those ones that the talking jack-in-the-box looked down upon, his gleeful sneer as if those people who didn't have a stable, always online internet connection to Microsoft's servers were treated as evolutionary throwbacks that needed to be purged.

Final Verdict: Don't believe the lies, see the truth that this is Microsoft being as cold and calous in its caculations as it always was (the last few months withstanding) and that this Reddit post is nothing more than hyperbole and clever marketing.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 8 years ago
@Ben: pretty obviously a sanctioned and orchestrated PR effort but also remember, the tech staff don't appear to know much more than any of us about the real intentions and strategy behind XBone. The seem to share the same optimistic thinking many gamers have shown but they don't make these policy decisions.

Its a double hit. Any time an anonymous insider pops up we're forced to assume he or she knows much less than they claim and consider that they might just be repeating corporate PR anyway. Hard to see this gaining any real traction, it's just too suspicious.
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Richard Pygott Level Designer 8 years ago
Microsoft really needed "Milo" as a launch title with every original Kinect, this would have proved its worth alot more, Milo would have been the Kinects Killer App that it still doesnt have....
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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 8 years ago
I find it interesting how so many people are complaining about lack of creativity and experimentation in the industry, yet many of the same people seem to love to hate every attempt to do something new. I agree that Steel Battalion was a mess, and though it obviously has something to do with the limitations of the original Kinect (and some of those limitations will most likely be true for Kinect 2), you can't blame it for all the game's design decisions.

I've heard many gamers talk about the xbox controller as if it was already there waiting for the first video game to be designed. It sounds a bit like a painter who is insisting that using a natural sable hair paintbrush is the only way to apply paint on the canvas. Any other working method would make a false painting. And btw, don't forget to use oil based paints!

What happened to 'nothing is sacred'?

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Petter Solberg on 18th July 2013 3:03am

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Richard Pygott Level Designer 8 years ago
Strange how Microsoft are now where Sony was at PS3 launch as far attitude...
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 8 years ago
It doesnt really matter how much the device costs to make if the consumers dont perceive the device as having that much value.
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