Buying a home video game console may soon become a lot more like buying a cell phone, according to a new report suggesting Microsoft is planning to offer a subsidized, $99 bundle including a 4GB Xbox 360 and Kinect sensor to anyone who commits to two years of a new, $15 monthly online service package.
According to a report from The Verge, which cites unnamed sources, the new subsidized bundle will be available "as early as next week" in Microsoft's retail stores. The $15 monthly subscription would reportedly include all the online game play features of a current Xbox Live Gold subscription, alongside unspecified additional content from cable or live sports video providers.
Such a new content plan could help position the Xbox much more directly as a full-service living room entertainment center, rather than primarily as a video game system. That's a transition Microsoft has been signaling for years with its slow accumulation of online entertainment apps, and one that seems somewhat natural given that entertainment apps are already more popular than online gaming on the Xbox 360. The report also fits with a recent leak that suggested Microsoft would be rolling out a "strategy to further monetize (the) Xbox subscriber base" in time for the holiday season.