Los Angeles (CA) – We have our doubts about Microsoft’s Xbox 360 strategy, which, in our opinion, lacks focus. But we cannot deny that the company has just made a brilliant move. Top-level Xbox Live subscribers, who are also Netflix subscribers, will be able to stream Netflix content through the console with no additional cost. Well, at least sort of. Could the Xbox 360 become what the Windows Media Center PC should have been? Absolutely.
Microsoft always has pitched the Xbox 360 as a universal gaming-movie machine. We have seen some content announcements over the past two years, but today’s news could push the console over the edge, establishing the device as a credible allround-entertainment center for the living room.
Netflix said that it will be providing its movie streaming service to Xbox Live members as part of an exclusive agreement with Microsoft. When the service will become available this fall, users will be able to access about 10,000 movies and TV episodes. Microsoft said that this agreement will make the Xbox 360 the home of more movies and TV shows on demand than any other device connected to the TV.
From the Netflix website, members simply add movies and TV episodes to their individual instant queues. Those choices will be automatically displayed on the TV screen via Xbox 360 and available to watch instantly. Once selected, movies will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds, Microsoft claims.
Sounds good to us. But is there a catch? What a silly question. Of course there is a catch.
Content isn’t free and you will be paying for this service. Actually, you will be paying twice for it. The feature requires an Xbox Live Gold membership for $7.99 per month or $49.99 per year and an active subscription to Netflix that includes streaming services. We can’t help but think that is yet another trial-and-error shot at the patience of consumers based on the hope that consumers will shell out extra money for the privilege to enjoy a feature on a specific platform.
But we aren’t sure why Microsoft believes there is extra value in this service, especially if there are Netflix streaming boxes that cost less than the Xbox 360 and require no extra membership. Also, remember that Netflix movie streaming is free (for Netflix subscribers) on the PC, so it is a bit strange to see that Microsoft bundles this feature only with the Gold membership.
The Netflix partnership could be an eye-opener for many people out there and a convincing reason why to buy an Xbox 360 and not a Playstation 3. This move can also justify Microsoft’s decision not to build a Blu-ray drive into the Xbox 360 and move towards online HD movie content instead: Comprehensive online entertainment could be the defining feature the Xbox 360 so desperately needs.
Now if we could only cut out those silly marketing games to charge extra for what isn’t worth anything extra and the Xbox 360 has a solid foundation to compete with the PS3.