Why Microsoft’s $99 Xbox 360/Kinect Bundle is a Shady Deal

Looking to bash your buddies online in some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? Then look no further than Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 and Kinect bundle, selling now for $99.

Unfortunately, there’s a big catch.

Right now visitors to any one of Microsoft’s sixteen retail outlets will find the option of purchasing a 4GB Xbox 360 video game console and Kinect peripheral for just $99 if they sign up for two years of Xbox Live.

On the surface, it sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Sold separately, the 4GB version of the Xbox 360 costs about $200, the Kinect $150. Normally the bundle saves buyers about $50, selling for $299.

And so, it certainly appears that buyers are saving at least $200. But hold on.

Those interested in the deal will have to sign up for a two year Xbox Live membership, giving them access to online multiplayer, media downloads, and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

But that membership isn’t cheap, since Microsoft is forcing people to purchase the monthly subscription, which runs $14.99. After 24 months, consumers will have paid $360. Ouch.

It’s a bit of a sneaky deal, since to purchase two one-year Xbox Live Gold memberships would normally cost $120 ($60 each year).

Oh, and don’t even think about cancelling the contract, should you sign on: doing so will cost you up to $250.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Xbox Live is the best console-based online gaming platform. It’s technically superior to Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) in just about every way, except the price: PSN doesn’t cost a dime.

So, is it a great deal? Well, it certainly is cheaper than buying an Xbox 360, then a Kinect, and then a Live membership every month for two years. But it’s certainly not as simply as getting an Xbox 360 and Kinect for $99, no strings attached.

Right now the “bargain” is limited to Microsoft’s brick-and-mortar retail stores, though if it proves popular enough the company will likely extend it to other places of business.

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