Microsoft quietly shuts down the $99 on-contract Xbox 360 program

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Almost two years ago Microsoft introduced its subsidized Xbox 360 bundle for $99. Buyers who opted in would then be locked into a 2 year contract for $15 a month, in which they would receive most online Xbox services. At the time Microsoft gained a fair bit of attention for bringing what was once generally thought of as a model for high end smartphones to the gaming space.

However, Redmond did not appear to be seeking the same kind of attention when it shut the program down as the Wall Street Journal reports. Microsoft quietly discontinued the $99 on-contract Xbox 360 bundles back in July according to Microsoft Spokesperson David Dennis. Earlier this week Dennis said the program "was intended to be a pilot experiment from the start, and Microsoft routinely adjusts the mix of offers available to its customers and this change was simply standard business practice."

The program was available across Microsoft Stores, Best Buy, GameStop and Walmart, and eventually the company offered a higher end 360 on-contract as well. While there was a fair bit of attention when it was announced, it wasn't all positive, some criticized the on-contract machine for being more expensive in the end than buying a system upfront.

At the time of its launch, the $99 machine was rumored to be a sort of test run for something Microsoft would be trying out with its at the time un-announced next gen console. Others suggested it is more likely that Microsoft was just trying to squeeze the last bit of sales out of the potential low cost 360 market as the new machine's launch approached.

While we are yet to see something along these lines for the Xbox One, it isn't entirely out of the question. In 2012, Microsoft's interactive entertainment unit's marketing manager said that the subsidized pricing scheme would remain through future product launches and was "pivotal" to its business. Whether Microsoft does eventually do something like this or not, it is going to have to get creative (or desperate enough to offer a major price drop) in order to catch up to Sony's next gen numbers now.

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