Microsoft Expands $99 Subscription Xbox Program To Best Buy And GameStop

Earlier this month, Microsoft decided to try something a little different when it came to selling the Xbox 360. Their plan: to kick off a pilot program under which customers could shell out a mere $99 for a shiny new 4GB Xbox 360 and a Kinect, provided they inked a two-year subscription deal to Xbox Live Gold.

Now, it seems the time has come for that pilot program to spread its wings. Microsoft recently announced that later this month, all Best Buy stores and certain GameStop locations would be selling those subscription-friendly Xbox 360s.

Well, for a little while anyway.

Since this is far from a hard launch, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb notes on his Major Nelson blog that “this next phase of the pilot program will be limited in terms of both timing and the number of units available.”

To add to the difficulty of nabbing a subscription-friendly Xbox, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment President Don Mattick has said that fans have (perhaps unsurprisingly) reacted enthusiastically to the new pricing model. There’s a very real chance that your local gaming retailer will blow through their allotment of sub Xboxs in a jiffy, so Hryb recommends that interested consumers give stores a call to lock down availability details.

A report from the Wall Street Journal helps shed some light on why Microsoft is so dedicated to the slow and steady approach. Part of the process involves making sure that purchasers of this subsidized hardware pass a credit check, and are training employees to position the console correctly to potential customers.

It’s been noted plenty of times now that the subscription model isn’t exactly the best deal for consumers — they ultimately end up spending nearly $40 more than if they had just bought the hardware and a 2-year Xbox Live Gold card all at once — but it could prove to be a huge ally in Microsoft’s war to control your living room.

By lowering up-front costs in a way that no other console manufacturer has done before, Microsoft is fighting to lower the barrier to Xbox adoption in an attempt to further expand their reach. Cheap(er) hardware is only part of the equation though, as Microsoft proved the other day with their slew of Xbox-related media announcements that their gaming platform is maturing into something much broader — a full-blown entertainment platform.