By Sahil Patel
For a long time, if you wanted to watch Netflix content on your Xbox, you needed the customary Netflix subscription as well as an Xbox Live Gold membership, which costs $60 per year.
Unless you are an avid gamer and need Xbox Live for reasons other than watching movies and TV shows, that’s not a financially sound option. After all, other connected set-top providers including Roku, Apple TV, and PlayStation do not require users to pay extra to access streaming services.
That’s about to change. According to a blog post from new Xbox head Phil Spencer, the console unit will soon no longer require users to pay for Xbox Live Gold in order to access apps like Netflix, HBO Go, Machinima, Red Bull TV, as well as on-demand options from the major US sports leagues. (Of note: HBO Go and Go Pro’s app are only available for the Xbox 360, but are “coming soon” to the Xbox One.)
The change will happen in June, right around the time Xbox steps out at E3 to talk about its gaming and entertainment plans for the coming year.
While not indicated in the blog post, this decision likely stems from an increasingly crowded connected-TV marketplace, which most recently saw Amazon as its newest entrant.
Additionally, Spencer also announced that Microsoft plans to offer a Kinect-less version of the Xbox One for $399 — $100 less than its current price-tag with Kinect. That should help the console compete with the PlayStation 4, which has been outpacing Xbox One sales in the US since launch.
That said, it’s not like Microsoft is giving up on Kinect. “To be clear, as we introduce this new Xbox One console option, Kinect remains an important part of our vision,” said Spencer in the post. “Many of you are using Kinect for Xbox One every day. In fact, more than 80% of you are actively using Kinect, with an average of 120 voice commands per month on each console.”
Those who buy a Kinect-less Xbox One and then realize they also want a Kinect will be able to buy the device separately in the fall, Spencer said.