Microsoft to remove Xbox Live Gold paywall for streaming apps

UPDATE: Confirmed. Netflix, Twitch broadcasting, Upload Studio all free.

UPDATE 13/5/14 16.10pm: Entertainment, sports and gaming apps will no longer live behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall, Microsoft has just confirmed, among other sweeping changes for Xbox One (although the paywall changes apply to Xbox 360 too).

Internet Explorer, Skype, OneDrive, OneGuide, GameDVR, Upload Studio and Twitch broadcasting will also now be free to all.

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ORIGINAL STORY 13/5/14 8.58am: The Xbox Live Gold paywall for streaming services such as Netflix will soon be removed, a report has claimed.

Microsoft sources told Ars Technica that the subscription requirement will be dropped - but that other services may be moved behind the paywall to make up for the change.

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Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners currently need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access most online apps and services (many of which often have their own paid subscription).

It means that you can't use freely-available services such as 4OD, Skype, Internet Explorer or YouTube without being a subscriber - something that has become increasingly unpopular among fans.

Microsoft's approach lies in stark contrast to other gaming platforms (PlayStation 3, PS4, Wii, Wii U) which allow access to these services for free.

The company also faces competition from an increasing range of smartphones, tablets and web-enabled TVs, which all offer access without extra charge.

And the policy delayed the Xbox 360 release of BBC iPlayer, whose license fee-funded content cannot be put behind a paywall. An exception was eventually made, but Xbox One still lacks an iPlayer app.

Xbox boss Phil Spencer is expected to address the future of Xbox Live Gold at E3 this year - we suspect we'll hear more on this then, along with a long-awaited update on the Games with Gold promotion for Xbox One.

The company is currently prepping its Xbox Originals slate of TV programming - perhaps these shows might be placed behind the paywall instead?

Microsoft declined to comment on the report when approached by Eurogamer.

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