Microsoft: Xbox mobile phone style contract "pivotal to our business"

Would you pay a subscription for the next Xbox?

Would you pay a subscription for the next Xbox?

Microsoft has said its current US exclusive Xbox 360 mobile phone style contract offer is central to its future plans, and hinted it may be used for the next Xbox.

In the US, you can now get an Xbox 360 with a 250GB hard drive for $99 - if you agree to pay $14.99 a month for two years of access to Xbox Live.

And it's just extended the offer in time for Christmas, so you can get the 250GB Xbox 360 with Kinect for $149 and the subscription.

Now, Microsoft has told the Wall Street Journal that this subscription program will likely remain through any future product launches. "This type of program is pivotal to our business," Matt Barlow, general manager for marketing in Microsoft's interactive entertainment unit, said.

You need to pass a credit check to make use of the offer, which has just been extended to Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and all GameStop shops. If you buy in-store you need to print out a voucher to hand to a clerk that indicates you were approved.

As mentioned, this is a US-only program, but according to the Wall Street Journal Microsoft will one day offer it to international customers.

As the current generation of consoles nears its end and the next generation readies itself for launch late next year, Microsoft has experimented with different ways of charging customers for Xbox gaming.

Today, ahead of this week's launch of Windows 8 and Surface, it hailed the evolution of Xbox from a device to a service, and confirmed plans to use the brand to power gaming across all its devices.

Microsoft even put out a fancy infographic charting this evolution.

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The evolution of Xbox from device to service.

"Back in June, we talked about how this is the year Xbox becomes the premium entertainment service for Microsoft," Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division, said.

"While our success with Xbox to date has been led by a box in the living room, we're now reaching individuals in new and exciting ways across PCs, tablets and phones. Xbox will be a gateway to the best in movies, TV shows, music, sports, your favourite games and instant access to your friends, wherever you are."

We knew we needed a single name for all entertainment experiences from our company and nothing means entertainment at Microsoft more than Xbox

Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing officer for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division

Now, Xbox Live subscribers spend more time using entertainment apps than multiplayer games, Microsoft said. This is occurring at a time when multiplayer gaming is growing on Xbox 360.

"We realize some may ask, 'Why are all these apps called Xbox, isn't Xbox just a game console?' Mehdi continued. "For us the decision to have Xbox stand for our broad entertainment efforts was a simple one. It is a natural evolution of our consumer offering.

"Even as Xbox has become the number one game console in the world, and continued to deliver arguably the best line up of games in our history, we have seen the use of Xbox broaden to watching TV/movies and listening to music."

He added: "Also, we live in a multi-device world. The millions of people enjoying entertainment on their Xbox are doing so within arm's reach of another device. We believe your entertainment should travel seamlessly across devices, that devices should work together to make your entertainment more accessible and create entirely new experiences.

"We knew we needed a single name for all entertainment experiences from our company and nothing means entertainment at Microsoft more than Xbox."

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