About a year ago, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Series X (then referred to as “Project Scarlett”), in part by highlighting the system’s extensive backwards compatibility: “Your games, your achievements, your progress, your accessories, your console experience with Xbox: It’s all coming out with Scarlett.” Today, however, the company highlighted one minor exception to that general backwards compatibility rule: Kinect hardware and the games designed for it.
“Our intention is for all Xbox One games that doesn’t require Kinect to play on Xbox Series X at console launch [emphasis added]Microsoft head of Xbox Phil Spencer wrote in a sentence buried in an extensive blog post about the company’s Xbox plans (including its upcoming xCloud integration with Game Pass). Spencer later confirmed and clarified that statement to The Verge, stating he literally said that “[t]here’s no way for Kinect to work” on the Series X. In a way, today’s confirmation isn’t much of a surprise. We’ve known for months that the Series X lacks the proprietary Kinect port found on the original Xbox One (which was also removed from the 2016 Xbox One S and the 2017 Xbox One X. But Microsoft offered a USB adapter for the Xbox One edition of the Kinect until 2018, and third-party accessories still offer similar USB adapters). hardware solutions (the Xbox 360 version of Kinect is designed for USB, but requires an included power adapter to work with older versions of the console).
It probably wouldn’t have taken too much work to get those adapters to work with the Xbox Series X as well. But that would have led to emulation development, testing, and support that Microsoft probably isn’t interested in for a device it hasn’t produced since late 2017 and hasn’t been bundled with Xbox One hardware since 2014.
In practice, the lack of Series X Kinect support affects only a few dozen games from the Xbox One library of hundreds of titles. Of those, the ever popular just dancing series is probably the one that is still active with many Xbox players, but those games have had players use a smartphone as a controller for years.
Elsewhere in the blog post, Microsoft clarifies that specialized Xbox One inputs like the Xbox Elite Controller and Xbox Adaptive Controller will still work with the Series X, which is likely to be more directly relevant to more Xbox One users. But we’re still a little disappointed that Microsoft’s admirable commitment to “full” backward compatibility leaves out one of the Xbox’s most unusual and memorable accessories.