Summary:

Netflix streaming just got a bit less expensive for Xbox users who now don’t have to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription anymore to access the video service.

xbox

Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners who want to stream Netflix through the game console won’t need to pay for an Xbox Live Gold membership anymore: Microsoft introduced a number of changes to its Xbox Live Gold subscription service Tuesday, with the most notable change being that entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go can now be used by anyone, regardless of whether they pay $40 a year for the Gold subscription level or not.

Previously, these apps were only available to paying members. Microsoft also announced Tuesday that it is now selling the Xbox One for $400 without the Kinect sensor, which represents a departure from previous requirements that the Kinect would always be included with the Xbox One.

Making entertainment apps available for free should help Microsoft boost online video viewing on the game console and possibly catch up with competitors. Sony’s PlayStation has traditionally seen more Netflix streaming than the Xbox. Microsoft executives used to argue that this was because the Xbox offered a wider variety of entertainment apps, but the extra Live Gold fee likely stopped users from making use of Netflix on the game console as well.

The question now is what the policy change means for Microsoft’s original content. The company has been investing in a number of titles, including a Halo TV series as well as a documentary series that includes the search for long-lost E.T. game cartridges in a landfill in New Mexico. It looks like Microsoft doesn’t quite know yet how much of that content is going to be available without an Xbox Live subscription. Asked about it, a Microsoft spokesperson sent me the following statement:

“We’re still determining what makes sense as an economic model for Xbox Originals. What’s important is making sure we deliver real value for our customers. We will share more soon.”

Comments have been disabled for this post