Pay to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 differ on premium features

Sony and Microsoft clarified differences between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One's premium online features this week.
Sony and Microsoft clarified differences between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One's premium online features this week.

Ever since Sony and Microsoft first announced their next-generation video game consoles, the two have been touting many an Internet-friendly feature: social media integration, recording and sharing of gameplay, and, in Microsoft's case, Skype compatibility. But while Microsoft will charge a monthly or annual fee for the lot of Xbox One premium features, Sony will give some PS4 perks away, while charging for others.

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced via its Xbox website that many of the Xbox One's most heavily promoted online and entertainment features — the Skype calling, the Game DVR system and the OneGuide in-console live-TV viewing mode — would all require an Xbox Live Gold subscription.

Xbox Live Gold is a carry-over from the Xbox 360, and Microsoft has said that the service will cost the same amount — $5 a month, or $59.99 a year for a 12-month subscription, $24.99 for three months, or $10 a month on a month-to-month basis. While many Xbox fans have argued that this kind of premium membership makes for a better (and more secure) online service than what Sony offered for the PlayStation 3 for free, it's nevertheless annoyed many a gamer who suddenly realizes they have to pay an additional $60 — every year — just to be able to watch Netflix on a device they already shelled out hundreds of dollars for.

As if on queue, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida jumped on Twitter shortly after Microsoft's announcement to tell inquiring PlayStation fans that, yes, the PS4's recording and sharing features will not require a premium PlayStation Plus subscription, which costs $49.99 a year. Previously at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Sony had snuck in a controversial announcement that for the first time in the company's history, it would require a PS Plus subscription for online multiplayer for the PS4.

Xbox buyers do get a bit of a consolation prize, however. On Thursday morning, in an unboxing video for the Xbox One, Microsoft revealed that the $499.99 device will come with a headset in the box. Previously, the company had said that the headset would only be available for an additional $25. 

Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: