Xbox, meet Redbox. In its continuing quest to make the Xbox 360 an entertainment, social and information portal rather than just a gaming console, Microsoft has entered into yet another content agreement, this time with the $1 easy-video-rental company.
"Today we're happy to reveal that Redbox Instant by Verizon will be coming to Xbox 360 in the very near future," said Microsoft's Larry Hryb, writing on the Major Nelson Xbox blog. "If you are currently a Redbox Instant beta participant, you'll receive an e-mail with a unique code to access the app on Xbox 360 in the coming days."
If not, you can request beta entry at www.RedboxInstant.com.
Taking on Netflix
The Redbox Instant app by Verizon, exclusive to Xbox 360, costs $8 a month for DVD or an extra buck for Blu-ray flicks. That buys you four one-night credits for the latest releases at Redbox kiosks and access to the service's Netflix-targeting library of movies available for unlimited streaming.
Netflix does not offer a streaming plus DVD combination. Its monthly subscription rate for unlimited streaming is $7.99, and its monthly rates for DVDs are $7.99 for one at a time, $11.99 for two at a time and $15.99 for three at a time. ($9.99, $14.99 and $19.99 for Blu-ray.)
"Microsoft working with Redbox/Verizon to add their new streaming service is a natural step for both the service and the Xbox platform," said Michael Inouye, digital home analyst at ABI Research.
"Microsoft and the other game console companies are still positioning their platforms as media hubs that extend well beyond gaming alone, so this isn't a surprising move."
The analyst added that the exclusive arrangement with Xbox is temporary, as Redbox and Verizon will eventually support other connected devices and perhaps other consoles.
"But it is a good win for Microsoft to have exclusive console rights -- even if it is only temporary," Inouye told us. "Microsoft's console is a good place to start because it incorporates a good search function that does a fairly good job searching for content across multiple services."
For instance, he said, users can search for a movie and the Xbox will return a list of services that offer it.
"Xbox 360 users who stream movies and play multi-player games also pay for the premium service, Xbox Live Gold, so they have a tendency to be heavier users of these complementary features," he said.
Lots to Watch
Rival Nintendo is already out with a new console, the Wii U, leaving Sony and Microsoft in a race to get their own next-generation consoles out first sometime toward the end of the year. So Microsoft has tried to keep an edge with new content partners.
In December, Microsoft announced 40 new available apps for Xbox Live subscribers to view content from PBS, MTV, the CW network and Vimeo, as well as offerings for users in other countries.