Microsoft Gives Users Hundreds of New Reasons to Pick Up the Xbox 360

Two updates that allow Xbox One and Xbox 360 users to access entertainment applications without having an Xbox Live Gold subscription are now available.

Microsoft, confirmed that it’d begun releasing the new software updates for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 earlier today in a post on Xbox Wire. Just last month Microsoft announced that it’d decided to stop requiring Xbox Live users to have a $9.99 a month Xbox Live Gold subscription, saying that it wanted to introduce more choice to the Xbox ecosystem.

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How ditching the paywall for entertainment apps adds more choice is unclear, but that won’t matter to most. That’s because having to pay for access to apps like Hulu Plus and Netflix was likely the most frustrating part about owning an Xbox 360 or Xbox One. For a user to watch Netflix they had to pay that service $7.99 and then pay for Xbox Live Gold. Xbox Live Gold costs $60.00 a year or $9.99 a month. For comparison, Sony never required PS4 or PS3 users to pay for a subscription to PlayStation Plus before streaming video and audio through the service’s apps.

This change means that users can turn their Xbox 360 into the entertainment set-top box it was meant to be, without extra costs. In short, with or without a Kinect, this update makes the Xbox 360 infinitely more useful. It doesn’t hurt that the console has around a hundred entertainment apps all ready for users to enjoy. The cheapest Xbox 360 with a Kinect sensor costs $179.99, significantly lower than even the Xbox One’s new cheaper $399 bundle.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Microsoft is adding new features to the Xbox 360 outside of that.

As for the Xbox One, today’s update includes all the features Microsoft talked about last month when it discussed its June Xbox One Update. That means Xbox One users can expect a hand full of other features in addition to not having to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

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Read: Real Names & External Hard Drive Support Coming in June Xbox One Update

It’s today’s update that adds the ability for Xbox One owners to plug in an external hard drive for storing more games. Serious Xbox One gamers will love this feature above everything else included in the June Xbox One Update. The Xbox One includes a 500GB hard drive, but that 500GB hard drive can fill up pretty quickly since games range from around 15GB to as much as 30GB. It also doesn’t help that users have to install parts of disc-based games on the Xbox One too.

Users won’t be able to choose just any old hard drive they have around their home. Microsoft says each drive will at least need to have 256GB of space and be USB 3.0 compatible.

This update also adds to the social networking capabilities of Xbox Live. When Microsoft first announced the Xbox One it noted that Xbox Live users would be able to track each other down using their real name, a practice that Facebook and Twitter have made more palpable.

It later delayed the feature until after launch. Following the update, users who go into the Friends app will be prompted to choose whether they’d like to share their real name or not. They’ll also be able to choose whether just friends see their name or all Xbox Live users.

All told, Microsoft is definitely pulling out all the stops as it heads into next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Eliminating the Xbox Live Gold requirement for entertainment apps should go a long way towards changing opinions on Microsoft and Xbox Live. Xbox One and Xbox 360 users will still be required to have an Xbox Live subscription for multiplayer gaming. Xbox One owners will need Xbox Live Gold to access the Xbox Fitness app too. Also, anyone who has an Xbox Live Gold subscription will get access to different games each month at no additional charge.

All users with an internet connection should find that their Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles get these updates automatically. There’s no way to trigger an Xbox 360 update manually. Users can update the Xbox One manually from the Settings app under System Settings.

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