In addition to the announcement this morning that Microsoft would be unbundling the Kinect sensor from the Xbox One in order to drop the retail price down to US $399, they also snuck in two other announcements that are just as important for the Xbox community and for owners of the Xbox One especially. The first is that some applications on the Xbox will no longer be hidden away behind a pay wall on 9 July 2014 and on that same day Microsoft will also be launching Games With Gold for the Xbox One, bringing gamers free games for the console as well as exclusive discounts and other benefits.
Apps no longer need Live subscriptions
This alone is a pretty big deal. If you go out and buy an Xbox One or 360 after the E3 2014 announcements, you won’t need to pay for Xbox Live Gold to access your media apps and streaming services. That puts things in the same boat as Sony’s Playstation plus, which doesn’t need users to pay for access to apps like Hulu, Netflix, Twitch streaming and the like. Xbox Live Gold was essentially a money printer because if you wanted to do anything beyond playing games in offline single-player mode, you had to pony up. There are still other uses like home network media streaming and the like, but the Xbox One in particular is held back by this requirement. In the modern world, no-one expects to pay double to access services hosted on the internet.
This does change things for Microsoft’s finances somewhat, though. All those users who bought the Xbox One or 360 specifically for the media capabilities and online video streaming are no longer going to be contributing to Microsoft’s coffers as much as they used to. That billion-dollar-a-year revenue just from Live Gold subscriptions will drop significantly and Phil Spencer will have the difficult task of figuring out how to make the consoles and the Xbox Live platform make more money for the company.
It needs to be noted that this does not help anyone with a subscription to Xbox Live Gold right now. The people who would be benefiting from this most are the ones with their subscriptions expiring in June or those who are purchasing a Microsoft console for the first time.
Games with Gold now extends to the One
Playstation Plus is a big reason why my family hasn’t upgraded to a PS4 just yet. There’s a ton of free games in my account that we have yet to play and it’s very convenient for new casual PS3 owners as well – just pick up the cheapest console bundle you can find, subscribe to Playstation Plus and you won’t have to pay another cent for games to keep you entertained for the year, provided that you have uncapped ADSL already.
Now that same benefit found also on the Xbox 360 extends to the One as well. You’ll be able to pay for a one-year subscription to Xbox Live Gold and the first two titles that subscribers will receive in June are Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. Like PS Plus there will also be huge discounts on games, free indie titles, free DLC and a lot of other “free” stuff, making the choice of going with Microsoft over Sony that much more appealing if you don’t own a console already. Of course, neither of the current-gen consoles have the kind of library that the ex-gens do, so more people may elect to stay on their PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles to see what free goodies they’ll be able to net while they save up money for the newer ones.
Today’s announcements were a pretty big, ballsy move for Microsoft and it’s getting closer to Sony’s offering than it’s ever been. Clearly someone has been listening to the gamers and now that much of the old guard is out and the company been reshuffled, brighter minds and better ideas are coming to the fore. Before today, the console wars looked rather one-sided. Now the stakes are raised and Sony and Microsoft are going toe-to-toe properly for the first time in a year.