Thursday, May 15, 2014

Xbox One Price Drop and Xbox Live Changes

With E3 quickly approaching some companies are slowly rolling out their pre-E3 announcements, and Microsoft is no exception. For the past week or so, Microsoft has been discussing the future of their Xbox brand as well as their Xbox Live service. While they are holding back the major news stories for E3, they did let us in on two major changes. At least one of which is sure to make all of you Xbox gamers happy.

Ever since the Xbox 360's "Next Gen Experience" update, Xbox Live has had a major focus on not only games, but other forms of media as well. While during the early days of Xbox Live, members were only able to download movies, tv shows, and music, now you have a wide range of different services to choose from instead. Rather than just buying a movie and downloading it to your console, members who sign up for a service such as Netflix can simply stream to the console instead. It's a nice set up which most devices have now days, but with Xbox Live there was one catch. To use Netflix, or any other service you pay for, you also had to pay for Xbox Live; an extra $60 a year.

Now sure, with Xbox Live you get more than just movies or music, you also get to play online with friends, you gain access to many other free apps, and you can also use the messaging and group party features. The Xbox 360 as well as Xbox One are game consoles, and paying the subscription lets you use them to the fullest; however, for non gamers that fee can be an issue. With the now larger focus on media, more and more are buying the Xbox 360 and One not for gaming, but for that entertainment instead. As long as they didn't mind paying the fee that is. Well, great news! This fee is no longer required!

Microsoft has finally announced that they will no longer require you to pay for Xbox Live if you want to simply use the console for Netflix, Hulu, or some other service, and they are now even offering refunds for those who signed up. Now you will still have to pay the subscription for the service, but it's no different than on any other device. This is a major step forward for the Xbox Family, and something Microsoft should have done long ago. After all, why would you pay an extra fee for a "Media Box" when there are cheaper alternatives?

On top of the "Xbox Live no longer required" news, Microsoft has also announced a price drop for the Xbox One. The console will now be sold without the Kinect for $399.99 rather than $499.99, and they will also start offering free Xbox One games to those who subscribe to Xbox Live as well; just as they do on the Xbox 360.

Although Microsoft still has a long way to go with their Xbox One console, this is a step in the right direction. Its price now rivals that of the Sony PlayStation 4, their Games with Gold service mimcs that of PlayStation Plus (although not quite as many games), and Xbox Live is no longer required for Netflix, Hulu, or other premium services. While thee are steps in the right direction, it isn't enough to just copy your competitors. The Xbox One needs rock solid exclusives, and new features all its own if they want to come out on top. Lets just hope they have something big planned for E3.

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