Watching Netflix on an Xbox has traditionally been one of the most expensive ways to stream Netflix content, as Microsoft requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription ($10 per month or $60 per year) on top of monthly Netflix fees. That could change soon, as Microsoft may drop the Gold membership requirement for all streaming media.
According to "multiple sources" that spoke with Ars Technica, Microsoft may want to lose the Gold subscription for online music and video on both Xbox 360s and Xbox Ones. The company's keynote at the next month's E3 games conference is currently slated for June 9, where the announcement might happen.
Such a move would put the Xbox One on better footing against Sony's PlayStation 4 (which is also $100 cheaper than the Xbox One). While both Sony and Microsoft require premium subscriptions for gamers to play online, Sony offers entertainment apps free of charge (although users still need regular subscriptions for paid services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, of course).
In fact, with the prevalence of streaming devices such as Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV, the Xbox systems are totally unique in that they put entertainment apps behind a paywall. No other streaming box charges anything beyond the initial cost of the system.
Microsoft has yet to comment on the story, so things could still change between now and June. Historically, Xbox Live Gold memberships have been extremely lucrative for Microsoft, so giving players a reason not to buy them could cost the company more money than it wants to lose. On the other hand, asking uses to pay for a service that every one of its competitors offers for free could harm the Xbox One's sales in the long term.
The upcoming Xbox Original shows may also still live behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall, since these exclusive programs would provide a compelling reason as any for users to dish out additional money for Microsoft services.
Unless Microsoft breaks its silence before then, expect more information about the future of streaming apps on Xbox consoles on June 9.