Recently I got a good look at the specs on the Xbox 360 Entertainment Bundle, which came available on Amazon recently. The bundle is set to offer up an Xbox 360 console with four gigs of storage, a three month Gold membership to Xbox Live, an Xbox 360 Media Remote, a $10 credit for Amazon Instant Video
and three free Xbox Live Arcade titles, though just which titles they are is as yet unclear. But will this prove enough to finally give Microsoft
the shot it's wanted as a full entertainment solution?
The answer, immediately enough, is probably not. Make no mistake, this is a reasonably good deal. Sure, no one much cares for the fact that it's just a four gig title, and the three free games might well not even fit in the meager storage provided, depending on just which Xbox Live Arcade titles we're talking about here. The indie titles, probably. Some of the arcade, possibly. But some would make this thing just give up with a glance.
The whole package sells for $229, which is a fairly solid discount of $50 over buying everything separately. But it still represents significant problems that can't be glossed over.
Perhaps the biggest is the Xbox Live paywall. While many of the services contained within Xbox Live would be free if their direct online equivalent were used--YouTube
and basic Hulu top that list--viewing them on Xbox requires a paid Xbox Live Gold account. Getting people to pay twice, especially in a down economy, is a difficult task, and having tried those services on Xbox Live (they had a free trial a few months ago and I was definitely in), I was left feeling cheated. A huge swath of YouTube was rendered unavailable, for example.
Worse, the deal isn't exactly a long-term winner. $10 on Amazon Instant Video wouldn't last most people over a month, and those it would probably aren't interested anyway.
Finally, there's the 800 pound gorilla in the room: the aging console itself. Much like the slim new PlayStation 3, there's only so much life left in the Xbox 360 before a new version is announced, likely at this summer's E3 event. Investing in a new Xbox now will likely be regretted as the new one should be making its appearance soon. Sure, Microsoft might get entertainment buffs, or people looking to replace an old or broken Xbox, maybe even some bored Sony fans who want to see what all the fuss is about on Microsoft. But with a new console likely coming soon--some peg the Xbox 720 release date as November 2013--who would want to buy an old system?
No, this isn't the entertainment powerhouse Microsoft has been hoping for. But it's an interesting start, and proves that Microsoft still clearly wants to be front and center in the living room, a noble and worthwhile ambition. Hopefully the 720 will fix some of the problems--that paywall especially--and carry on from there.