“Yo dawg, I heard you like cable boxes” came to mind when Microsoft announced Xbox TV for the Xbox 360. Microsoft has long stated that it wants the Xbox to be the media juggernaut in your living room and so far it has done a pretty good job with its games, Xbox Live, Netflix integration, and more. No Blu-Ray drive yet as Redmond is still pretty bitter over HD-DVD losing to the Sony format, but it seems the Xbox is aiming to comfortably skip the physical media evolution completely. Coming this holiday season and integrated into the Xbox Live subscription, Microsoft is bringing Xbox TV to your 360, a lineup of TV and music channels that will be accessed straight from your Xbox 360 console. The partnerships are pretty diverse with Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FiOS, HBO Go, TMZ, SyFy, BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, Televisa, Telefonica, Antena 3, and many more (hit the source link for the list) joining up to offer premium content straight from your 360. Xbox TV will also be Kinect ready so you can choose between a physical controller or your body and voice to guide you through the listings. All of this is available with your $60 a year Xbox Live Gold subscription. Pretty cool right?
Eh, not so much. For those of you thinking you can now ditch cable and rely solely on your Xbox 360 and your Netflix subscription for all your televised needs, think again. Yes, you must cough up $60 a year for your Xbox Live Gold membership to access these features. However, you must also subscribe to cable service as well with one of the companies that has jumped on board Xbox TV. And since you have to subscribe to cable you will have to rent out a cable box that will run you another $60 a year, and that’s with just standard definition.
Well, at least you will have access to all those premium channels on your console, therefore making it worth it, right? Bitch please. You want HBO Go, you better pay the fuck up for HBO Go! So you already are getting hit with a cable bill that also includes a monthly rental fee for a cable box, you now must also be subscribed to certain premium content services through your cable company so add another $10 per month for just HBO Go so that’s an extra $120 per year. Yes, Microsoft will say that what you’re really paying for is the experience and the ability to access all your content from a single interface with a cool motion guidance system, but that still doesn’t change the cold hard fact that Microsoft is hitting you with $60 more per year for an extra cable box that connects to your cable box.
For current Xbox Live Gold subscribers the price is actually negligible. They’re already paying the extra $60 a year to game with mature and wholesome individuals online, so they’re just being given what they already have access to on their Xbox 360 for free. What about those who don’t subscribe to Xbox Live and use their console for offline use? Signing up just makes the Xbox 360 an additional cable box to your cable box, almost causing Boxception.
You can’t blame Microsoft for this, though. I think it is wonderful that they’re really focusing on bringing the entire living room experience into one device. I’m pretty sure Microsoft was originally pushing for cable kingpins to let the Xbox 360 act as a standalone cable box for just the services Xbox TV would offer, instead of an all-out cable box. That would have been a killer app for the Xbox, as you could ditch your cable TV subscription for a lower cost on-demand premium content service. Most likely none of the major cable companies or networks would budge on this offer because the last thing they need is yet another third party service nipping away at their profits. Cable execs already sit in their board rooms with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears, praying that Netflix would just disappear.
The bottom line is this: if you’re already a happy Xbox Live Gold subscriber who subscribes to cable TV, then you get Xbox TV features for free. If you don’t have Xbox Live Gold but own an Xbox 360, then Xbox TV is just an extra $60 a year add-on that will do exactly what your current rented cable box will do.