“Xbox On” Voice Commands will Only Work in Five Territories at Launch [UPDATED]
In the hours since this story was posted, Microsoft has issued a statement regarding the Kinect’s voice-functionality in non-US territories at the Xbox One’s launch:
“Our vision is to bring conversational voice control and voice search to every country where we sell Xbox. At Xbox One launch, we will offer voice control in 10 of our 13 launch markets, with eight total languages: English US, English UK, French, Spanish MX, Spanish ES, Italian, German, and Portuguese. There will be some voice experience variations in different markets at launch; the ‘Xbox On’ voice command will only be available in five markets (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Germany) and will come to others in the near future.
There are many complexities associated with delivering a great voice experience around the world, and we’re working hard to add more voice features and more countries; we’ll share more details in the future.”
Slightly better! Still…not that great.
The footnote description on Microsoft’s Xbox One has also been altered since this story was originally published. Now it’s just vague enough to give Microsoft some wiggle room when the console launches this fall:
“Xbox voice commands will not be available in all markets on the product release date.”
And even still, this particular talking point is questionable. How many other features and details have been stated one way, and then reversed hours or days later? At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it (or hear it, as the case may be).
As we’ve been documenting since it was unveiled, Microsoft has been making quite a big deal about the Kinect for the Xbox One, often saying that using the Kinect is so integral to the Xbox One experience, that it would be unthinkable for one to be sold without the other. That’s why it was surprising to discover that only five of the 13 launch territories for the Xbox One will have access to the Kinect’s voice command options.
That’s so stupid.
“Xbox voice commands will not be available in all markets on the product release date. Voice commands will be available at launch in US, UK, CA, FR, and DE.”
This is pretty silly on Microsoft’s part—but only because of how big a deal the company’s been making of the Kinect’s voice control features. In fact, to hear Microsoft tell it, the main draw of the new Kinect in the Xbox One is almost entirely down to the Kinect—at least, that’s what Phil Harrison would like you to believe.
I understand that making sure a voice-activated device works with the various different languages spoken throughout the world can’t be an easy undertaking. I totally get that. I have the utmost sympathy for the men and women working in the Microsoft Language Lab or whatever who are making sure that the Kinect understands Estonian flawlessly. But then why go so completely insane about showing off how important voice commands are to your product if you’re not even going to have that feature finished by launch? It just makes you look foolish—which is a look that Microsoft has repeatedly tried on since unveiling the Xbox One back in May.
What’s even worse is the fact that several of the territories left out of the voice command launch actually speak English as a native language. That’s Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. Sure, they’re different dialects, but don’t you think that maybe getting all the different pronunciations of English down should be a priority? And as for the other territories—Austria, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, and Spain—it’s anybody’s guess as to when Microsoft might get around to getting the commands out to you.
I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m picking on Microsoft, as I’m using Windows 8 right now, I’m typing this in Word, and I’m a big fan of the Xbox 360. Microsoft! It’s a fine company. But promoting the hell out of features and touting them as not only amazing but crucial to the experience, and then not having them available at launch is beyond crazy. It’s the kind of doubletalk that can drive someone crazy. And is currently driving me crazy.