Microsoft tries games rental with new Xbox Live Arcade Karaoke

Singalong game sold as blocks of play time, not an outright purchase

20 Nov 2012
Microsoft 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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