Starting June 9 and amid the E3 2014 proceedings, Microsoft is offering the Xbox One, stripped of one of its major features, for $399. It's a price point that matches the cost of rival Sony's PlayStation 4.
Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant's Devices and Studios division, said in prepared remarks that his company was "thrilled to offer our fans more choices to play the games they love and to enjoy all of their entertainment with the new Xbox One option for $399." The lower-priced option ships without Kinect, the motion sensor that was previously an integral part of the Xbox One experience.
Last year, in a pre-E3 2013 media event at the company's headquarters, Mehdi showed off how Kinect would provide Xbox One owners with advanced voice and gesture control. Built-in microphones enable users to turn on their consoles, search for content and switch modes by uttering commands at the sensor. Users also can use the Kinect's camera to conduct Skype video calls and log onto Xbox Live using facial recognition.
That functionality came at a cost. Despite an early sales success, critics slammed Microsoft for shipping a game console with a $499 price tag, $100 more than the Sony PlayStation 4.
The gamble paid off, for Sony. At last count, the Japanese electronics maker reported that it had sold 7 million PlayStation 4 units since its Nov. 15, 2013, launch. The Xbox One, which launched a week later on Nov. 22, 2013, has shipped 5 million units to date.
A lower-priced SKU aside may help the company close the gap. "The introduction of the new Xbox One console option offers more choice than ever before at a great value," said Microsoft in a statement.
Microsoft also revealed that the Xbox One has at least one major thing going for it: a devoted and engaged user base. Since the console's launch, "the Xbox Live community has spent nearly 1.7 billion hours on games and entertainment, an average of five hours per day per console."
Its successor, the Xbox 360, is heading into the sunset after a successful run. Microsoft said that it has sold more than 84 million Xbox 360 units and that the gaming platform has generated $37.7 billion in game sales during its lifetime to date. Users have "logged more than 88 billion hours of gameplay," the equivalent of over 100,000 centuries, added the company.
Microsoft isn't banking on just a lower price to lure gamers. In a June 9 E3 2104 media briefing, the company announced several game releases for the holiday season and beyond.
The upcoming games include such exclusive, tent pole titles like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo 5: Guardians. Also in the works are sequels to popular franchises, including Forza Horizon 2, Fable Legends and Rise of the Tomb Raider.