European Xbox 360 owners will be able to buy digital rights management free songs and stream download-to-own movies when Microsoft updates the expanded Zune Marketplace this autumn.
The launch will bring the previously US-only experience of listening to music and buying download-to-own movies through the Xbox 360 to the UK.
A Zune Pass, which grants subscribers unlimited access to music, costs Ł8.99 / €9.99 a month, but everybody will get access to a 14 day free trial. An Xbox Live Gold subscription, which costs 40 quid a year, is required.
"Download to own pricing, we're not being specific on that today, because there are different pricing options for different albums, but you'll find the download-to-own pricing will be very competitive compared to other download-to-own marketplaces," international PR manager Scott Rowe told Eurogamer.
The launch is part of Microsoft's expansion of Zune Marketplace to Europe for PC, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live.
This is how it works: when the service launches you'll be able to buy DRM-free MP3s from the Zune Marketplace and listen to them on your PC, Windows Phone – due out in the UK by Christmas - and Xbox 360.
Zune pass will launch in the UK, France, Italy and Spain. Nine quid a month gets you unlimited downloads and streaming from the catalogue across what Microsoft calls "three screens". You can access the content on your PC, Windows Phone and Xbox 360, but on Xbox it's a streaming-only experience.
When it launches you'll automatically get a 14 day free trial, which requires a credit card authentication. After the trial expires you'll be asked to fork out your hard-earned cash. The decision, then, is yours.
We saw Zune music in action at Microsoft's London offices yesterday morning. If you've bought the music video that accompanies the song you're playing, it'll run on-screen in the background. If not, a custom background will play out – all running from the cloud. The Smart DJ gubbins from the PC client will also integrate itself into Xbox 360, so you'll get instant play lists as well.
Meanwhile, the launch will allow UK Xbox 360 owners to buy download-to-own movies for the first time and stream them on their console. All your snazzy media can be synched with your PC and Windows Phone, if you're so inclined.
Zune already allows you to rent high definition movies. 2009 data from Screen Digest had Microsoft down as the number two video-on-demand provider in Europe. Since Zune's November 2009 launch Microsoft has seen the volume of HD rentals double, and a 157 per cent increase in the amount of time people spend watching movies on Xbox Live.
"We're really happy with the way that growth has come about," Rowe said.
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