By Jared Newman | Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm
Microsoft left us mostly in the dark at E3 when announcing that Last.fm, the Internet radio station, is coming to Xbox Live. Now, Joystiq has filled in some of the blanks with Xbox Live general manager Christina DeRosa.
Silver-level subscribers — i.e. the ones who don’t pay — can listen for “a trial period” of three hours per month, with occasional video advertisements, DeRosa said. Gold users will get unlimited ad-supported access. A third, commercial-free tier will cost extra.
That’s all good to know, but what’s really interesting is that Microsoft is finally opening the door to ad-supported content. In its current state, Xbox Live is transaction-based. You’ll get a free map pack here and there — and some of them have been sponsored by a third party — but most of the content on Xbox Live requires money, regardless of whether your a paying member or not. Last.fm is either an outlier or a sign of what’s to come.
With Twitter and Facebook integration coming to the service, I wonder if Microsoft has a similar ad-supported plan in mind. It seems likely, considering a recent report by MediaPost that says Microsoft will bring Silverlight to Xbox Live within a year, making it easier for advertisers to get their message onto multiple platforms. If there’s any Xbox Live feature that seems ripe for ads, it’s social networking.
Looking further ahead, could all of this signify a completely ad-supported Xbox Live, as Official Xbox Magazine suggests? I doubt it. My instinct says Microsoft wouldn’t want a free service to cannibalize the paid one, but I can’t say for sure without knowing the ratio of Gold to Silver subscribers, and the company doesn’t disclose that information. I do know that Xbox Live is rich with features, and sticking ads into all its nooks and crannies would be a Godawful mess.