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New Xbox game charges by the hour
New Xbox game charges by the hour
November 20, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

Microsoft is hoping it's found a new way to monetize games on its Xbox 360: charging players by the hour.

The company announced this week a new Karaoke application that, much like a karaoke bar, charges participants by the hour for unlimited access to a library of over 8,000 songs.

While it's not exactly a major shift for the company (don't expect a pay-as-you-go Halo anytime soon), it does follow Microsoft's recent trend of finding new ways to monetize the Xbox 360. The company is running its first free-to-play game, and a recent pilot program resulted in a nationwide rollout of a steeply discounted console with an upfront cost offset by a two-year monthly fee contract similar to how many mobile phones are sold.

Karaoke's song library comes by way of a partnership with The Karaoke Channel. The game is developed by iNiS, the Japanese studio also responsible for Microsoft's earlier karaoke game, Lips.

More on the Play XBLA blog.

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Herbert Fowler
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In a bar with a coin slot and I can, maybe, see it. As a console/software in my house: Will never happen, ever.

Joel Day
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A terrible business model for a most likely terrible game made by an absolutely terrible developer, assuming Microsoft won't have to assign some internal team to rewrite huge chunks of it at the last minute.

Guys, if you can't do profitable and consumer friendly at the same time because of rights holders, suck it up and take a loss for the sake of the plaform or DON'T DO IT. And stop hiring iNiS. They're awful.

Joel Day
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@Joe: Because people don't like to be nickel and dimed in their own home. The proposition puts a bad taste in your mouth from the start, which is a big barrier to entry. Why not have an all-you-can-eat subscription model supplemented with a free-to-play ad driven option like the major streaming services? Why not tie this into Xbox Music somehow? They should figure out a way to do this disruptively that produces competitive value for the consumer instead of shoving a meter in their face.

Right now, for a one-time-ever cost, I can hold my iPhone up to a speaker and see lyrics on the screen synced up with almost any song in the world. What am I missing out on? A knock off version sans the vocal track? Gaming mechanics based on piss-poor pitch detection? Is that really the value proposition here? All this model does is make it ever more obvious to the consumer that they're being totally ripped off.

As for iNiS, I wish I could go into detail. Sorry.

Freek Hoekstra
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peopleare paying for DLC, and people are paying for extra songs, so people don;t all mind being charged to do/watch something, so I don't see an issue with this.

if you do, simple don;t buy the product, I see this product as a test case, if it sells well then there will most likely be more, if it does not this will likely be it for a while (or maybe a few more tests but if repeatedly unsuccessfull microsoft will atleast accept the market is not yet ready or will never be)

I however look forward to having subscription plans like netflix for games, or being able to play games and pay by the hour, it greatly reduces the barrier to enter and there are a lot of games i'd like to try or am interested professionally but I won;t splash out 60$/euros on.

I nearly never finish games now and am often bored after an hour or 2 (if not sooner) so for me this model seems brilliant. (also it could be an additional model, buy the game with unlimited acces for 60$ or pay 2$ an hour.

Joel Day
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Well, look how successful that turned out...

Kenneth Wesley
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And I bet they want us to supply our own alcohol to perform these songs. PASS!

Maria Jayne
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Pretty sure charging players by the hour is not new, it's how the internet worked in my country for the first few years....then it evolved into something people wanted to use.

James Orevich
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I like this idea.
I have friends who are big fans of karaoke.

On occasion, my friends and I get together for karaoke and drinks.
This usually ends up with swapping discs of $50 for 50 songs, half of which I didn't want anyway.
One friend owns a karaoke machine which has the same problems.

This app lets me have the full karaoke experience (a.k.a a great song selection), at a reasonable price for a night's entertainment, from the comfort of my own home.

Rob Graeber
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To think about it like this, you're probably right. There's are situations that this would be preferable. Just from a marketing standpoint though, "free">paid>subscription

Alex Covic
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Arcade Machine economy. Kudos, Micro$oft! Good luck competing with Singstar (Sony), I guess. /sarcasm-indeed

Daniel Erickson
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I have to go with the minority here and say this sounds like a great alternative. As part of a karaoke household I can say the main issues with the approach today are: individual songs are too expensive (you often discover you don't want it after one sing through for whatever reason) but every disk is filled with things you pay for but don't want and in the end you still end up with nothing like the library collection you get when you're out at a professional place. Price point will obviously matter but I would much rather throw the party at my place for a similar price and all the selection then go out and pay $8 for drinks while fighting the drunk crowds.

Aaron San Filippo
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I may be in the minority here, but I don't think this is a terrible idea.

Sure, it won't be for everyone - some will hate it, just like some hate free-to-play, some hate "pay a big sum up-front" and some hate subscriptions.

But at least from the player point of view, you know what you're paying for, and how much. This seems better to me than some of the prevalent F2P models of late that involve you paying to skip the boring parts of the game, or paying for game mastery with no upper limits.

Karaoke players will find it to be a familiar model, and if they feel they're getting their money's worth, I don't see a problem with it.

Adam Bishop
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Whether this is a good idea all depends on pricing. I realise the catalogue here is much larger than with a disc-based game, but in order for it to be a better value proposition than something like SingStar it would have to be pretty inexpensive (maybe $3-5 for the evening) to make sense as a consumer.

Jamie Mann
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I'm not sure why there's been so many negative reactions to this: for something which is so heavily content-driven (and where player preferences can vary so wildly), this sort of "rental" model makes perfect sense. It's certainly preferable to the existing models, where you either have to buy individual songs or purchase an entire disk of songs, of which you're likely to only want a subset.

It's certainly sounding perfect for the annual family Christmas meetup...

James Yee
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Exactly. This would be great for Christmas meetups and the like. Though since you'd have to have GOLD Live account probably they should give you some free time since you're already paying to try the bloody thing. *Sigh*

Jamie Mann
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@James: there's no mention in the article about the need for a Gold account, and you can certainly pay for other "subscription" services (e.g. movies) on XBL with a Silver account. After all, it's local "multiplayer", not networked play.

The article mentions that the service will have a rotating playlist of "free" songs for people to sing along to; I'd guess that's likely to be used as a marketing tool by both Microsoft and the music industry...

(it also mentions that the service will be controllable via the SmartGlass mobile-phone app. Which is nice - anything which means you don't have to use the on-screen keyboard is a Good Thing ;) )

TC Weidner
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I kinda like it. Could lead to an honest model such as. First two hours free, then per hour kicks in. This allows no barriers.

To be honest I like this much more than the FTP nonsense.

steve roger
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You know that Microsoft has just as many bad ideas as any other console maker/developer/publisher. But Microsoft has the distinction of being able to fund these bad ideas more often than anybody else.