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Microsoft kills Xbox Fitness, will yank access to previously purchased content

When Microsoft launched the Xbox One, it showcased the console’s unique value-added proposition by partnering with a variety of companies, not just game developers. Xbox Fitness was a launch title for the platform that utilized the Kinect 2.0 sensor to provide feedback on user form and to track calories burned. Unfortunately, Microsoft just announced that it would sunset the service, effective immediately — and that includes removing all access to content that users may have spent a non-trivial amount of money on.

Here’s what the company announced yesterday: Starting now, Xbox Fitness content is no longer available to purchase. You can still use content you previously purchased, but only through June 30, 2017.

Up until now, Xbox Live Gold subscribers have had access to some basic routines and fitness workouts. That feature will continue until December 15 2016. After that date, none of the free material will be available.

All Xbox Fitness content will be permanently shut off on July 1, 2017. This includes all content purchased by the user. The Xbox Fitness application will not be available for download and Xbox Fitness users will not be able to access any workout routines or features, even if they previously purchased it. That content wasn’t exactly cheap, as Ars Technica reports: P90X videos sold for $59.99, while others from Jillian Michaels were $12 each. It’s not clear how much cash users could have spent on the videos in total (one Reddit user claims to have spent over $140), but this is the latest example of how content simply isn’t yours any more, in any meaningful way — not unless you purchase physical media.

Microsoft has no apparent plan to compensate users who bought materials through Xbox Fitness and does not plan to offer downloadable versions of the content that could be used after the phase-out date. Even if certain Kinect tracking capabilities relied on cloud-based services, there’s no reason why Redmond couldn’t offer basic video downloads. The home fitness market originally boomed following the introduction of the VCR, and we’re reasonably certain that the Xbox One is capable of serving an equivalent function.

Once upon a time, analysts and pundits predicted that streaming services could completely replace physical media collection. Digital data, it was theorized, would actually be a preferable option to lugging around dozens of discs or maintaining a physical collection. This is true, at least to an extent, if your files aren’t locked down with DRM. Once DRM or streaming-only services are involved, however, all bets are off. Microsoft isn’t a fly-by-night company with starry-eyed promises and a dubious legal strategy; it’s a multi-billion dollar corporation with nearly 20 years of experience in the console market.

Microsoft probably killed Xbox Fitness because it didn’t want to continue to pay licensing costs or server fees for a project that was tied to a peripheral that’s utterly irrelevant to the future of its gaming business. The fundamental problem here is the mismatch between Microsoft’s goals and those of its customers. Customers want access to content they’ve already paid for. Microsoft wants to minimize costs and improve its bottom line. It’s not in Redmond’s best interest to continue to provide access to a service that relatively few people use, particularly not if there’s no new revenue being generated by that business unit.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Kinect was such a dead-weight peripheral, there aren’t very many Kinect-specific products left for Microsoft to cancel.

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