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Microsoft sweetens Xbox Live with cheap games and unrestricted streaming apps

Confirming rumors circulating this morning, Microsoft has announced a suite of changes to its tiered online services for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Until  now, Microsoft’s consoles have been the only streaming media devices that require a paid subscription to gain access to popular entertainment services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, which already charge their own monthly fees in the first place. Starting in June these services (and many more) will be available to anyone with an Xbox Live account, whether or not they have a paid, Gold subscription.

Games with Gold launched a year ago on the Xbox 360, providing free games to Gold subscribers much like Sony had already been doing with Playstation Plus. In June, this feature will also become available to Xbox One owners, providing access to a curated selection of mainstream hits and indie breakouts. The first month’s titles will be Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. A single Gold subscription will provide access to free games on both consoles.

Come June, Xbox One owners will also be given access to the exclusive discounts in Deals with Gold, offering 50-75 percent off of select titles on a rotating basis. The first month’s selection will include Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome, among others. Xbox One will also be receiving an exclusive VIP room for Gold subscribers, offering even more free games, monthly deals, and other bonuses.

In general, Microsoft seems to be playing catch-up to Sony’s comparable Playstation Plus service, which was first out the gate to offer open access to streaming services and free games. Needing to pay an additional subscription to access services already being paid for was a real sticking point for a lot of Xbox users. Along with their announcement of a cheaper, Kinect-less Xbox One, Microsoft is ostensible attempting to widen their field of offerings and remove any niggling annoyances that might have kept people away.