Blog Post

Microsoft tightens its grip on the Xbox One, with new rules for developers

The ability to hack the Kinect was part of what made Microsoft’s motion-sensing device so hot back in 2010. Tinkerers were able to create expansive Minority Report-style augmented reality scenarios and even utilize it in Google Glass-esque prototypes. In fact, the technology is still used by developers to this day.

But that won’t be possible from now on. Microsoft has confirmed that both the Xbox One console and the Kinect will only work with licensed hardware and software — locking out hackers and smaller third-party outfits from developing products around the technology.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s decision to reverse strict rules around the sale and distribution of its new Xbox One games. The reversal came after gamers rebelled against the console’s DRM measures.

With the Kinect, Microsoft first announced early access to Windows SDK support for the device, available via application for $399. Presented as a way to get more developers on board with the Kinect, the program has a side effect: Ars Technica pointed out Wednesday that the Kinect relies on special software to interact with a PC, effectively blocking the old system’s plug, play and hack open-source community.

While Microsoft’s intentions are to give developers greater and better-assisted access to the Kinect’s capabilities, the classic homebrew hacker will have to stick with the Xbox 360 for their prototype aspirations.

Third-party developers are also hitting snags with the Xbox One’s technology. Game Informer confirmed that current third-party systems, including custom controllers, simulation wheels, and even headsets, will not be usable through the Xbox One. Developers that are interested in creating compatible hardware must pay for a third-party license all over again — even if they’ve already developed for the company in the past.

Microsoft’s closed fist over its hardware is a function of its desire to bring quality hardware and software to consumers, perhaps with the intention of locking third-party developers into making Xbox One-exclusive peripherals (versus universal ones that could work with any console).

But the move also closes the door to innovation and customization. There’s no doubt that players who have spent hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) of dollars on their peripheral systems like a $600 Fanatec Forza Motorsport Elite steering wheel and or a $350 plug-and-play Foehammer Fightstick S7 will feel the sting knowing that the Xbox One won’t support any of it on top of their old games.

To its credit, Microsoft has promised a purchasable adapter for expensive gaming headphones:

[protected-iframe id=”0ed7382ed9d27ca06d528baf79a47601-14960843-23918705″ info=”//” ]

But cost and availability of the product won’t be clear until the holidays.

Microsoft’s latest moves around its gaming software and, now, hardware don’t make for great PR — and a gaming community scorned is one with closed pockets.

46 Responses to “Microsoft tightens its grip on the Xbox One, with new rules for developers”

  1. James Sutton

    I wish they would just ban all third party peripherals, god damn cheaters with there modded pads really do nothing for but ruin the online expierience.

  2. The same people that are saying Xbox will flop are the same people that aren’t interested in Kinect anyway. The level of reach the internet can give opinion has made this console release so tedious. I can’t wait till Nov so people will just shut up and play. Even after that, I bet people will be too busy screaming how they made the right choice and everyone else was wrong to even play the damn thing.

    • James Sutton

      On a plus note it should reduce the amount of idiots on xbox live as hopefully they will all defect to ps4, leaving all the reasonable people to enjoy our multimedia machines.

  3. MikeInBA

    lol: “The ability to hack the Kinect was part of what made Microsoft’s motion-sensing device so hot back in 2010.”

    but back in 2010 you say: “I doubt many Kinect sales are from folks buying the Kinect to hack the device for their own use”.

    And back to the premise of this article…LOL!.

  4. With the spying ability of the new KINECT being much more powerful I think Microsoft has more than a monetary reason for wanting tighter control over the sensor. Legally and certainly in the court of public opinion they will not be able to claim ignorance if it’s abused.

    • Spying Ability? You get to choose what data gets sent where during the XB1s initial setup and you can refuse to send any data. On top of that the Kinect can be paused or turned off altogether. It still has to always be connected which is beyond stupid but its not going to spy on you that is just the stupidest thing i have ever heard in my life. If the whole NSA PRISM thing didnt just happen nobody wouldve even brought that crap up. Anyone who believes the Kinect is going to spy on you might as well throw away their cell phones laptops GPS devices tablets etc and start making their tin foil hats.

  5. While I never like it when Microsoft is high handed I think in this case they may have a point that consists of wanting more money or trying to irritate low budget and/or independent developers. KINECT’s ability to record everything you do is far more intrusive and powerful than just about ANY other camera out there. If it comes down to a legal battle Microsoft’s argument that they only made the equipment or didn’t know it would be abused probably will not work for them. Not to mention the additional bad press.

  6. kelixaleir

    Microsoft should just stop listening to the community, they are just ungrateful.

    Change DRM policies after community complains but have to remove their favourite feature of the X1 – Community complains some more.

    Community complains about Kinect spying so they implement this to help prevent hackers from gaining control of other peoples Kinect through software – Community still complains

    I personally was happy with the X1 when it was first released but since Microsoft started listening to all the whining out there the X1 is going down hill.

  7. lillypaw

    Did they really need to give customers another reason not to buy? So you have to have Kinect and it has to be plugged in! Yet they limit devs to it access, guess they had enough of doing it Sony way after all the telling devs to support remote play, looks to me MS don’t want devs to support kinect and us to play games on it after all its a all in one monitoring device, sorry mean entertainment devices! Or was I right first time?

    • charlie

      you’re missing the point completely. its not about dev support or access for using Kinect with game development on xbox one. its about dev support/access to Kinect for PC development. the Kinect sensor for xbox one is incompatible with pc. SO they are giving indie devs who want to work on Kinect for pc an early dev Kinect an sdk and a new Kinect for pc when it comes out all for $400. its actually a GOOD THING. not a bad thing.

  8. Microsoft the same exact thing with the Xbox 360 and I couldn’t have been more happy with it. requiring third parties to get licenses to make peripherals made all peripherals better how quickly we forget the days of PlayStation 1 And 2 when many third-party controllers were inaccurate would often break due to poor build quality what you didn’t work at all. Also don’t forget the memory cards of old that would randomly delete them self or just stopped working. You don’t see crappy third-party accessories on modern consoles and you have Microsoft to thank. due to the required license requirement everything must be billed to certain to find quality leveI see no reason to get angry that they’re continuing do require third parties to follow strict quality control. Everyone is just looking for reasons to complain things have been this way for the last 10 years and nobody cared then.

    • lillypaw

      Back then you had a choice buy cheap or buy official now you have no choice. Look at it this way if you could afford a Ferrari would you buy a skoda? It also meant that because there was choice prices had to be more competitive!

      I understand some hoops for devs like temple run came out then 100 copies but some of them did it better. Sometimes someone comes up with something great but fails to deliver it well. Someone picks up the pieces and makes it great. Don’t see why restrictions help!

  9. Lance DiBitetto

    WOW, Microsoft must be totally flabbergasted at all this consumer push back and vitrol. They are so use to everybody choking down any and every greedy policy and tactic because of their monopoly position that they really don’t know how to treat consumers and 3rd party peripheral manufactures in a balanced, healthy and competitive business environment.

    It is so interesting to be able to watch the edges of a company crumble, their great, unbound hubris blinds them to what makes a business prosper, respecting your customers and providing to them what they need with service and a price that beats the competition.

  10. this is def a good thing i dont see why ppl are being negative, how would someone feel if they invest there hard time and work into a product, just for someone to come along, hack it… make a nerf gun that shoots at ppl as a motion det system when they walk into the room and then sell it as there own product….!! sounds not kool doesnt it… this is what ppl do with the kinect. lol so i say good job Microsoft, for keeping the hackers from making shooting nerf guns lol

  11. Kind of a bullshit story. When the original Kinect launched, there was no software at all available for it for the PC. Someone put up a hacking challenge to write a PC driver for it. Within like a week the driver was written.
    2 minutes ago · Like

    The prize was like $10k or something. Pretty sweet. Point being, it’s not like MS released the first one with all sorts of free tools. People can hack this one just like the first one. Or not. Either way, no change from before.
    2 minutes ago · Like

    And, at least now they are letting developers get their hands on one early and give them support. Last time they just released the sensor, no one could learn about it or write their own software without creating it.
    about a minute ago · Like

    This time they are giving small indie developers support and an SDK early. Not to mention a beta sensor to work with before launch, and then a final launch sensor when they release.

  12. The new Kinect has next to nothing in common with the first one. They dumped the original Kinect hardware and software and started fresh with new tech. It doesn’t have a single thing to do with the lessening of DRM restrictions. I’m not sure why they were linked in this article.

  13. Nathan Ottenson

    Don’t really understand the purpose of this article. 400$ gets you the beta Kinect, official SDK and another Kinect camera when it is officially released for PC. 400$ for two Kinect cameras and an SDK is an amazing deal. MS has created an incredible device, is it so strange they want to retain some control over the device? Also you are obviously only talking about the XB1 kinect camera as there will be a PC version released in 2014. If it plugs into a computer, it can be hacked.

    • Before, you could buy one device that worked on 360 and PC. Now you have to buy two. Before, anyone could hack it using a free SDK and there was no developer certification. Now, you have to pay. The likelihood that the same awesome homebrewed artistic applications for Kinect 1 — the ones that made it a viral phenomenon and brought a ton of good press to Microsoft — will be developed for Kinect 2 is now basically nil. That’s the issue here.

      • or Microsoft has specialty hired ppl that are already in the process of doing this.. im pretty sure theyve thought ahead. why let other ppl create apps when they have the ultimate tech to do it themselves

      • How dare Microsoft a BUSINESS who’s main goal is to make money and appease shareholder actually try to make money! People seem to forget these companies exist to profit. They don’t owe you they don’t love you and no matter what they tell you they don’t have your best interest in mind. No company. Not Microsoft, Sony, apple, Google, Walmart, Comcast….no company cares about you other than what’s in your wallets.

        That being said how do you know there isn’t a valid technical reason the kinect for Xbox one and PC can’t be interchanged? Ever think of ythat? Perhaps since the Xbox is running via SOC they had to make changes for the PC version. Jesus people use your brains. Gamers have become way too whiney and entitled.

        • Kevin Blake

          I would say your American from your comments as America has that self centred Ideal of F**k everyone all that matters is the is the USA and money. It`s like a bully in the playground pushing his wieght around the only problem with that self centred inward looking attitued is not all the world thinks the same and in the end it could well come back and bite you in the arse.

        • Charlim

          Yawn. Capitalist argument.

          Everyone knows that. Does that mean the consumer cant give feedback about their dumb moves?
          So because they’re a business, we, the consumer, will have to smile and happily take it if they charge $600 for the 180?

    • This really wouldn’t be a big deal to a established company, or any company with deep pockets tor that matter. the issue lies in that: A) the companies that have money to burn will be more adverse to risk and may be unwilling to try something innovative and new which comes with inherent risk. B) lets say that your a new startup. for any startup to make a name for themselves they HAVE to innovate. lets not forget that startups arent usually flush with cash initially suddenly making that $400 too rich for their blood ultimately killing any innovation for the platform.

  14. Collin Arner

    When you think about it, this is actually in response to the “spying” accusations. If only licensed developers can use the hardware, they can at least partially assure the world that it’s not being used for illicit purposes.

    If just any third party can release a game that uses the Kinect, then it’s possible they could misuse it.

    Microsoft’s PA office really needs to better explain this. Either that, or this site is misrepresenting the facts.

    • Lauren Hockenson


      I totally understand your concerns, re: “spying,” but the current model of the Kinect is hacked every day and there really hasn’t been any “illicit” repurposing of the product. This includes facial recognition technology. And technically, that statement can be said for any open SDK for an online-ready gadget. The information is only as strong as what it does and where it goes.

      The closing of the Kinect is a bummer for startups who have used Microsoft’s technology to build interesting and interactive software for around $100. Jacking up the price in quadruplet and no doubt requiring SDK developers to make programs solely for Microsoft’s benefit (and a Windows-only prospect) is slamming a door shut that they opened happily when the Kinect was just an add-on. This feels disingenuous at best — even when you dress it up as safety.

    • Marc Hughes

      Yeah but Apple doesn’t have any real or serious competition….They also aren’t know for making products with a 55% failure rate for the first 4 years a new device is out…..Micro$haft on the other hand seems to forget there are actually other consoles that look more appealing and didn’t have a 55% failure rate on their last consoles

        • You do realize that hacking could have easily happened to the Xbox, the same servers and software for both. Only reason Sony were targeted was because they had blocked the USB sticks that allowed third party software on the system. They feared it might be used for piracy of games. So, the hackers of the world retaliated.

          MS have no better security than anyone else. Cyber crime will continue to rise and security will always flag behind.

        • ur mom

          the 360 got hacked in 2012 but MS didnt shut down live so the players could play online, but it was risky since your info could get stolen more easily. and there are way more hackers that play online on 360 than there are on ps3, havent you ever played an online game

      • Philip Straw

        There’s no point defending Apple. Apple do exactly the same crap and that’s why I don’t bother with their products.

        If Microsoft want to go the same route, that’s fine, I’ll just treat their products the same way I treat Apple’s. I was going to get an XBox One after they reversed their policies but now, I’m giving it second thought. Not that this affects me directly in any way, I just don’t like the attitude and don’t want to encourage companies to persist in this direction.

    • mixelmagic

      In what way does Apple do the same? They changed the connector on IOS devices once in their long history and provided adaptors.

      Apple have very easy, cheap developer access too.