Summer is a strange time for gamers everywhere. While few look forward to the comparative dearth of new titles making appearances in what many refer to as the "summer drought," there is also a lot of gaming news coming out that everyone wants to hear. With the PAX expos recently concluded and E3 only a few weeks away, Microsoft (News - Alert) tipped its hat a bit early about their new subscription-based Xbox 360 bundle, which is now official.
It had previously been the stuff of rumor -- specifically, an Xbox 360, complete with Kinect, that could be had for only $99 but threw in the requirement to sign up for an Xbox Live Gold membership for fully two years at $14.99 a month -- but now it is indeed an actual product set to hit shelves soon.
In this is also the first problem with such a launch: those who want in on the deal won't be able to get it at Best Buy (News - Alert) or Gamestop or at many of the places, as this is currently only available at Microsoft Store locations, of which there are precious few. And the online store doesn't actually seem to carry it yet, instead offering a $399.99 4GB Xbox 360 with Kinect, as well as a $44.99 card for a 12 month membership to Xbox Live Gold.
And this leads to the second drawback of such a system. Yes, those who do purchase an Xbox 360 with Kinect under the subsidized arrangement will save fully $300 on the deal. But they'll lose those savings, and then some, paying for their Xbox Live Gold membership a month at a time. The plan is said to be based around the subsidy method that mobile carriers use; buying a phone may cost only $199 -- or less depending on the phone that's purchased -- with a two year agreement, but with the stipulation that phone users buy a voice and data plan to go with it.
The problem in this arrangement is that, at least for now, an Xbox 360 does not require Xbox Live Gold access to be truly useful. Yes, a smartphone without a voice plan can still be used as a Wi-Fi capable device, but its primary function of voice calling is lost. Without Xbox Live Gold, many functions are unavailable, like a variety of video services, music services and the like, but users can still download game demos, as well as buy downloadable content for their current games, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The primary function here, playing games, is quite independent of Xbox Live Gold.
There is also an early termination fee involved for those who cancel their service ahead of schedule, though no mention appears to be made of what happens should the console experience the so-called "Red Ring of Death" effect in which the console is shut down through no fault of the user. Mention is, however, made of being charged the costs to repair a "damaged Console Bundle,” so that should give some users pause.
Whether or not to go this route is dependent on several factors; some may like the idea of only paying a bit up front and then making regular small payments for a good long time to come. Others may find this a terrible idea, especially since there have already been rumors that Microsoft is planning a new console version in the not too distant future. Obviously, personal feelings will color this idea, so acting on it may be as simple as determining what's right for an individual user.
Edited by Rich Steeves