I was thinking about that and how Microsoft is the only company charging for the online play, which is free in other consoles and of course in PC (except games that require some subscription). XBox Live Gold is a major source of revenue for Microsoft, so they are unlikely to stop that in the future and they are probably more prone to empower XBLG and base their business more on it. The question is, how could they do that further?
So I had a crazy idea, what if XBox (the next one) became a subscription based service, where users pay an annual fee and download and play any games for "free" (technically, the price would be included in the subscription). This is a poll where you can choose several options.
This is nothing new, there are already services that offer a catalog of games for a subscription fee, Microsoft experimented with this idea with songs (instead of games) and they are also offering some games with important discounts (about 50%) for gold members, that means, half of the price is paid by their gold subscription and the other half is paid on demand, this would mean taking the next step in that direction.
They can monitorize how many people download some games and how much time people spend on different games and pay developers according to that, or with any other formula, there are no problems wrt information for retribution. It is also a closed platform, so basically they can centralize distribution and this kind of things without problems, it's already there.
This could be a problem for retailers, I think that is the main weak spot in the whole strategy. Retailers are important because they are sellers, a father looking for a gift may look at a retailer before than the Internet. That is why the idea is crazy.
Also, they are charging now for online play and the games, companies usually don't like giving up on some source of revenue, but considering competition in the market, they may need to do something. The milkage may look good for stockholders in E3, but users are not going to allow it too far. Either they bring something really exciting for gamers that is worth the price or they will be fueling their competitors.
Personally, I think that's the only thing that would make me buy another console, I have to change my old PC now (still running windows XP...) and spending a few more bucks gives me a gaming platform with free Internet play (as usual) and cheaper games, so it pays off fast. I know my single opinion is biased, that's why I'm asking also for yours, in the poll and the comments.