According to ARS Technica Microsoft are set to remove the Xbox Live Gold requirement for entertainment apps. Currently users must have paid account in order to access apps like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu. However, multiple sources have confirmed to the site that this will no longer be the case, allowing those with free accounts access.
Both of Microsoft’s direct competitors allow entertainment apps to be used without a premium account. This has given PlayStation 3 & 4 users, along with Wii owners, to stream TV shows and movies without having to pay an extra cost.
This has been a major sticking point for gamers for a number of years now. They believe that Microsoft is unfairly forcing them to pay extra costs. The company has also come into conflict with content creators such as the BBC, who wanted their iPlayer app to be available to non-paying customers. Although it did eventually release on the Xbox 360, it came about 4 years later than the PS3 version. A decision that was attributed to the desire to not have the app behind a paywall.
The removal of the paywall is not completely unexpected. Don Mattrick left the company last year to become CEO of Zynga. Steve Ballmer was in charge in the interim until Phil Spencer took over as the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. Since then he has repeatedly made it clear that he wants the Xbox platform to be focused more fully on games than ever before. Allowing entertainment apps to be used without needing Xbox Live Gold would fit in with that strategy.
The reports have come just before the E3 Expo where Microsoft is expected to announce a number of new games and features for the Xbox One. The gaming convention is usually the place where companies reveal upcoming titles and hardware. Just last week reports surfaced that EA are set to show off a brand new title alongside six other games.