Xbox owners now have free access to HBO, Netflix and other apps as Microsoft pulls down paywall

xboxone2121Xbox owners without an Xbox Live Gold membership will now be able to access more than 180 apps like Netflix, ESPN and HBO Go for free.

Microsoft is rolling out its June update globally this week, which comes with a bevy of improvements to both the Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Perhaps the most notable change is the ability to use those apps without having to purchase a $59 Xbox Live Gold membership, which was previously required. Xbox One owners will now also be able to use Skype, OneDrive and OneGuide without a membership.

This is a big move for Microsoft. Other streaming media competitors like Sony, Apple and Roku have never charged extra in exchange for access to apps like Netflix and Hulu, and the Xbox Live Gold memberships were a nice revenue generator for Microsoft.

xboxliveappsXbox Live Gold subscribers will still have benefits, like online multiplayer, free games with Games with Gold, and other exclusive discounts. Microsoft also noted that Xbox Live Gold members who are not Hulu Plus subscribers are eligible to receive a free 3-month Hulu Plus trial “in the coming days.”

Xbox One owners will now also be able to hook up external hard drives to the console, allowing gamers more storage capacity for their games and apps than the 500GB they’ve been given out of the box.

With the update, the Xbox One will be able to handle up to two external hard drives that will need to have at least 256GB of storage capacity each. Microsoft encourages gamers to take downloaded content on an external hard drive and bring it to a friend’s house — though you’ll need to sign onto Xbox Live for your games to work.

The Xbox One update also includes a new real name system for Xbox Live, giving gamers the choice to display their full name with others online. You’ll be able to control who sees your name — all your friends, a subset of your choosing, friends of friends or none at all.

Finally, the SmartGlass app for Xbox One will now have a more robust OneGuide experience and Universal Remote Control features, which is good news for those hoping to use their phone or tablet as a remote. Microsoft will also add hero stats and activity feed information more prominently within the app, along with new friend achievement comparisons.

Last month, Microsoft announced that it will sell a standalone Xbox One, without the Kinect, at $100 cheaper than the current Xbox One price ($499). The Xbox One still trails the $399 PS4 in worldwide sales, while Sony’s console has held a sales lead in the U.S. for the past four months.

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  • MS_Rocks

    You should add that the External HDD has to be USB 3.0.

  • Netralitydude

    I think this article needs clarification to point out that anyone, even Roku users, have access to the HBO Go app. Anyone can access those apps. However, it’s another thing to say that one has access to the HBO Go content, which requires a subscription. Both the Netflix and HBO Go apps are readily accessible by anyone and are free to acquire. But to access their content one needs an account and a subscription. Is Microsoft allowing people to access the app? Or is it allowing people to also access the content? Huge difference there.

    • Taylor Soper

      You’re right — you need separate subscriptions to services like Netflix and HBO Go to watch their respective content. But Microsoft previously required a paid Gold membership to simply use these apps — regardless of your Netflix, HBO Go subscription status — before. That’s changed now.

  • GraveBear

    so what do the faithful xbox360 users get that still support your product and have since the Halo takeover? What is this update I am downloading? Who uses their xbox that doesnt have live for netflix? I think my microwave oven even offers free netflix, it surprises me that its called an “update” when its more of a whoopty doo..If anything I feel robbed and swindled out of my dollars, as you dish out more stuff to everyone but us faithful supporters still playing a console that you offer updates to…

    • Michael AntiHeroic Edwards

      The 360 has been out since 2005, it’s called moving on.

    • Spencer Martin

      This is very very confusing. Especially at the end.

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    Is Microsoft still offering a rebate for Gold users who got it for these capabilities?

  • TP

    Great! Thank you!

  • MistMaster

    Help! I can access all the other stuff like Netflix and Hulu just fine using my vpn (I use https://ironsocket.com), but whenever I try to access HBO Go, it says i need a US cable account for that?

  • luis

    update is rolling out on june 9

  • slippery johnson

    If Microsuck wants to make me happy, they would allow 360 users to add their own external hard drives as well. This would make so many people happy. I think now that the “One” is out, you could do this. C’mon guys!!

    • huge johnson

      And you’d be the first one to complain that the performance on the external hard drive royally sux, because 360 doesn’t support USB 3.0. Sometimes you need to upgrade the hardware, not just the software…

  • Matt Reich

    So what does this mean for those that have Xbox Live Gold and a Netflix subscription?