Enjoy free Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLBTV and more this weekend on Xbox.
Having never experienced it before Mass Effect 3 came out, I can tell you firsthand that Xbox Live Gold is a thing of beauty. In addition to the ability to play online, Gold subscribers can access a ton of media content, from movies on Netflix to funny cat videos on YouTube. While you'd usually need a Gold membership and a subscription to these services, Microsoft is changing the rules for just one weekend. Starting tonight and lasting until Monday, April 23, 2012, anyone with an Xbox 360 and an Internet connection can access Xbox Live Gold's entertainment apps, free of charge. Furthermore, the Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLBTV, and Epix apps will be waiving subscription fees during this time.
The Xbox 360 has been trying to pitch itself as more of a multimedia machine than a dedicated gaming console for a while now, and this seems like a logical step to whet consumers' appetites for media consumption. Microsoft has unlocked 21 services ranging from Dailymotion to ESPN to UFC. While most of the apps are for video content (including Vudu, SyFy, and VEVO), some are music services (last.fm and iHeartRadio).
Aside from the four apps mentioned above, regular subscription fees still apply for the others, especially Verizon and Xfinity TV, which require users to be existing cable subscribers with those companies. On the other hand, many of the other services are free to begin with, save for the Gold membership, so there should be plenty of content to play around with over the course of four days. Be aware that some of the "free" services will be offering trial subscriptions only for new members, so be sure to read that fine print. This offer applies specifically to the U.S., but Europe will be getting a similar deal this weekend, too.
Speaking as someone who recently moved and has only been able to watch baseball at bars for the last few weeks, this weekend will be instrumental in my decision to either subscribe to MLBTV or leave it in the dugout. If you've been on the fence about any of the streaming video services, or Xbox Live Gold's utility in accessing them, this is a risk-free opportunity to try them out. Of course, PSN has similar services without a subscription fee, and a good gaming PC will give you access to the same content in addition to conferring godlike powers, if hardcore fans are to be believed. Even so, there's some good content to be had on Xbox Live this weekend, and "free" is a hard price to argue.