Last week we reported that Microsoft would soon debut a bold new Xbox 360 bundle and along with it, a new console business model. Today, Microsoft made the news official, albeit in the form of a pilot program available only at the 16 Microsoft Stores in the United States. In exchange for $99 and a signature on a 2-year contract obligating the purchaser to pay $14.99 a month, you will receive a 4GB Xbox 360 console, a Kinect sensor and 2-years of Xbox Live Gold. When all is said and done, the buyer will have paid about $460 total over the 2-year period. If the buyer wishes to exit the contractual agreement, they will have to pay an early termination fee. The program went into effect today.
What exactly this pilot program is aiming to accomplish is unclear but speculation is growing that Microsoft may be looking to debut their next console, codenamed Durango, with this subscription model when it launches. Assuming that this pilot is indeed successful and Microsoft does indeed decide to go down this path with the Durango, questions immediately arise; Will this be the only way for gamers to buy the console, or will the plan exist alongside the old fashion, splurge on a new console method? One thing is certain, hardware manufacturers including Microsoft have been worrying about consumers having reluctance toward buying another $400-500 videogame console. They’ve gone so far as to work to extend the life cycle of this generation to avoid asking gamers to buy another Xbox thus far. This new business model could help squelch fears many would have dropping a large chunk of change on the next Xbox. For now however, all we can say is that there is indeed a $99 Xbox 360 pilot program underway. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the experiment and watching the concept evolve as we approach the next-generation of gaming hardware.