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Microsoft tries games rental with new Xbox Live Arcade Karaoke

Microsoft has released details of a new Xbox Live Arcade title for its Xbox 360 games console that is rented by the hour, rather than purchased.

Typically, Xbox Live Arcade titles - smaller games distributed as a download rather than on a physical disc, and accessible to Xbox Live members in exchange for stored-value 'Microsoft Points' purchased using real-world cash - are bought outright. Some cost upwards of £20, but many are priced at the impulse level of sub-£5. Once purchased, developers can attempt to wring some additional revenue from buyers using in-game purchases or add-on content packs, but eventually the revenue stream runs dry.

Addressing this perceived issue, Microsoft's Karaoke game - developed in partnership with the Karaoke Channel - looks to turn buyers into renters and in doing so develop a recurring revenue stream. The game provides buyers with access to 8,000 songs from an on-line library, but they don't pay to buy the game itself: instead, they buy a block of time. Those looking for a shorter game can purchase a two-hour block, or those planning a party can opt for a six-hour or even 24-hour block of play time.

When the time block is up, the game is no longer accessible - until more time is purchased, naturally. It's a model that massively multi-player online (MMO) games have been trying for some time: asking players to pay a monthly subscription in order to receive access to the game. In Japan, it has even been used on consoles before: Nintendo's latest Wii U comes pre-loaded with a karaoke title which, like Microsoft's, charges for blocks of time.

With games publishers increasingly looking to earn revenue from the second-hand market - or to shut it out entirely, something Microsoft is rumoured to be investigating for the next-generation Xbox - moves like this are, we predict, going to become increasingly common.

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