Microsoft Xbox Live "Entertainment" features to be free this weekend

Microsoft is giving its non-paying Xbox Live customers another one of its Xbox Live Gold preview weekends from April 19 to April 23, but unlike in the past, this one won't give users the ability to participate in online games. The only premium features that are being unlocked are things like Netflix, Vudu, and Crackle – the online entertainment features. This is so that Microsoft can start getting people who don't even play online games to upgrade to the Gold level.

To pretty much the entire gaming community, it seems wildly archaic that Microsoft still charges users a monthly fee just to be able to access some of the most basic online features, like online gaming. And yes, even if you have a Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription, you have to pay for Xbox Live Gold before you can access those apps on your Xbox 360. The Gold level was designed far before online connectivity and video game consoles were like bread and butter. In its inception, Xbox Live Gold was designed to cater to that minority that wanted to play games online against other people.

Now, that's something that should be considered a requirement of any game console. Both the PS3 and the Wii have never charged gamers for the basic functionality of online gaming. Sony's PlayStation Plus service charges users a fee, but in exchange they get exclusive downloads and early access to trials – stuff that costs only pennies to Sony but doesn't detract from the PS3 experience. Hopefully the Xbox 720 won't have this glaringly outdated setup.