Microsoft has announced the world's first game console with subscription-based pricing, making the Xbox 360 more accessible to those interested in gaming on a budget. The new package will cost US$99 up front, with a two-year contract of $15 a month, much like your average cell phone contract. This is an entirely untested price model for videogame consoles, and may prove to be a stroke of genius for Microsoft, whose Xbox 360 is closing in on its seventh anniversary. A new price model could breathe life into the system for years to come.

The Xbox 360 has been a crucial success for Microsoft – launching before the PS3 and Wii was paramount in building a fan base that enabled the 360 to outsell its predecessor, the original Xbox, by millions of units. Over time, the Xbox 360 has been offered in a variety of different bundles with ranging prices, the lowest of which was the $199 Xbox 360S 4GB. Now we have the $99 package, and for those interested in Xbox Live Gold, the subscription Xbox may be an attractive option.

Whether or not the subscription bundle is right for you is a question of how much interest you have in online gaming. If you buy the same Xbox 360 outright, you'll spend $299, if you add on two years of Xbox Live Gold you're looking at a total cost of around $420. In contrast, the subscription-based Xbox with its attractive $99 initial payment will actually end up costing you around $460 total. A $40 premium to pay over the course of two years may be low enough for the subscription model to be a hit for Microsoft, provided there is a continued flow of quality software released for the system.

The new Xbox 360 bundle comes with everything you need to get playing the moment you open the box, including the console, a controller, and even a Kinect sensor. Thanks to the inclusion of Xbox Live Gold services such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, the $99 Xbox might actually take sales away from streaming boxes like Apple TV and Roku. Making the Xbox 360 more than just a game console has been a priority of Microsoft's for years, and this seems like a natural step toward that goal.

Source: The Verge