With one month to go before E3 opens its tradeshow doors, information leaks and rumors are starting to hit their stride. The latest involves a report that Microsoft is going to announce a $99 bundle of a 4GB Xbox 360 and Kinect sensor — if the purchaser agrees to a $15/month subscription fee for online services. According to the report, the $99 Kinect bundle may go on sale at Microsoft stores as early as the week of May 7.
If the report proves true, Microsoft would be going in the same direction as mobile-phone carriers, who heavily subsidize their phone prices in exchange for two-year contracts. Sure, that’ll get you a $49 smartphone, but over the course of two years you’ll actually spend more money. Do the math on this supposed Kinect bundle, and the math has a similar result: $459 for the subscription model versus $418 out the door for a 4GB Kinect bundle ($299) with two years of Xbox Live Gold ($59/year).
Of course, since this “leak” doesn’t have any official Microsoft muscle behind it, there’s no telling whether the subscription concept includes more functionality or the same as a standard Xbox Live Gold membership. If the $15 subscription idea ends up providing features above and beyond XBL Gold, the cost may end up being close to the same.
That’s not likely. Microsoft’s in this to make money, not do consumers any favors.
Our editor has long since felt Microsoft would go the monthly route, going so far five years ago as to say the cloud-based storage that Xbox Live subscribers recently had added to their accounts would generate revenue for The House That Bill Built. Whether a subscription-based entertainment model is in the Xbox 360’s immediate future (read: next week) is still to be seen, and we’ll report on it immediately if it’s officially unveiled.
But a subscription-based Xbox 360 will surely come to pass, whether it happens now or later. Now that Microsoft has its momentum and foothold in the living room, and now that more people are using the console for entertainment than gaming, it’s only a matter of time.