Ars Technica is reporting that multiple sources at Microsoft have been told of a plan to make a few adjustments to the Xbox Live Gold streaming video offerings. Most notably, popular video streaming services Netflix and Hulu may no longer require Xbox Live Gold access. Up until now, Xbox users would need to pay for an Xbox Live Gold account – in addition to paying for Netflix or Hulu subscriptions – just to stream these services from the Xbox.
The information has come to light thanks to ongoing discussions about the company’s announcements at June’s E3 games expo. At this point, it’s important to note nothing is official, and Microsoft may change its mind before the company’s June 9 keynote. Either way, we’ve been told that the possible change in policy is directly linked to a changing of the Xbox guard after Don Mattrick left the company to become Zynga’s CEO.
It’s worth noting that Sony, Nintendo, and other popular media streaming boxes such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire offerings have never put these services behind a paywall. Ars is also reporting that Microsoft may move some other services back behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall to make up for these changes, though no services have been named as of this time.
It has always struck me as odd that Microsoft has kept these services tied to Xbox Live Gold for so long. Microsoft has wanted the Xbox to be the center of a users’ entertainment center. Not all users are going to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold, but many of those same users will probably have subscribed to Netflix, Hulu, etc.
It is possible that Microsoft has been feeling some pressure during this console generation. Sony’s Playstation 4 has taken a fairly commanding lead in sales over the Xbox One since both consoles were released in November. It’s possible that Microsoft is attempting to make up for some previous mis-steps and level the playing field a bit more. Time will tell if this is too little too late.