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:
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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.