Microsoft May No Longer Require Xbox Users To Pay Extra For Access To Streaming Video

UPDATE: Microsoft has confirmed this report and additionally announced that it will soon begin selling a Kinect-free version of the Xbox One for $100 less than the current sticker price of $499.

For years, Xbox users who wanted to watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, MLB.TV or other streaming video services via their gaming console not only had to pay the subscription for each of those services, but had to ante up for an Xbox Live Gold premium subscription. A new report says Microsoft may finally be thinking about ditching this requirement since none of its competition charges anything similar.

In the early days of Netflix’s streaming video service, one of the only dependable ways to get streaming video onto your TV was through a gaming console like Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3, but even though the PS3 — and then the Roku boxes, and smart TVs, and web-connected BluRay players, and Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV, and countless others — don’t charge for access, Microsoft has continued to require an Xbox Live Gold membership.

Ars Technica claims that multiple sources at Microsoft are saying the company is tearing down this paywall, and will allow plain old Xbox Live members to stream these services without paying the company any extra.

In addition to the increased competition from devices that doesn’t paywall streaming video services, Microsoft has gradually been trying to give people more reasons to pay up for Xbox Live Gold. The company recently began production on original video programming, but has yet to reveal how it will make this content available to users. It’s possible that this original content could be put behind the Gold paywall in order to give users a reason to pay the extra cost.

Microsoft has added other features in recent years to make its Gold membership more attractive. Its Games with Gold program gives Gold members two free games a month as part of their subscription. However, the games are only available for windows of about two weeks each and Microsoft has yet to include Xbox One users in the program.

Sony’s premium PlayStation Plus membership also includes free games, but there are usually more than two offers for each month (including one per month for PS4), and they are generally available for longer than two weeks. The downside for PS Plus is that any games downloaded via this program can no longer be played once you let your membership expire.

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