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Xbox Begins Offering Free Access to Third-Party Apps

11 Jun, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Move puts Xbox One and 360 on par with streaming media devices such as Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast

Microsoft has begun enabling anyone using an Xbox 360 or Xbox One console free access to third-party content apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus or ESPN, among others. Previously, accessing apps required a $59 Xbox Live Gold membership.

Beginning this month, Xbox 360 or Xbox One users can access for free more than 180 third-party content apps, including Machinima, Twitch and Upload, Netflix, Univision Deportes, GoPro, Red Bull TV and HBO Go, NFL, MLB.tv, NBA Game Time and NHL Game Center, among others.

“Both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 system updates will begin rolling out globally this week, giving fans more ways than ever to enjoy the best in gaming and entertainment with Xbox,” Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said in a statement.

Most of the apps, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, still require a separate subscription. But allowing any Xbox user free access puts the gaming console in direct competition with streaming media players such as Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast — which don't charge for access to third-party apps.

Meanwhile, Hulu is starting a free three-month trial of Hulu Plus for all Xbox Live Gold members in the United States. Any Xbox Live Gold members who are not already Hulu Plus subs can sign up within the Hulu Plus app and receive a free three-month trial to the subscription streaming service.

With more than 48 million members, Xbox Live Gold remains a veritable cash cow generating $2.8 billion in incremental revenue to Microsoft annually.

Indeed, Microsoft is sweetening the pot for Xbox Live members by upping the number of free titles available in its “Games With Gold” electronic game platform launched a year ago on Xbox 360.

The software behemoth said to date more than 12 million Gold members have “enjoyed nearly 200 million hours” of free gaming. New titles offered in June include Dark Souls, Charlie Murder and a bonus game of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition.

“We’re pleased to bring Games With Gold to Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One in June. Members will have subscription-based access to free games, including Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault, among others,” Spencer said.

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