You don't buy a Big Mac and pay extra for special sauce. You don't buy an iPhone and pay extra for FaceTime. So why in the hell is Microsoft putting some of its most heavily promoted Xbox One features behind an idiotic Xbox Live Gold paywall? Because it can. But that doesn't mean that it should.
When the Xbox One was first announced, its $500 price tag was a little jarring next to the $400 PS4. But hey, at least you get a Kinect 2, and some fancy new features—an on-screen channel guide, an in-game DVR, Skype, etc—thrown in. Not bad! When we asked Microsoft directly, at the time, which of those features would end up being Xbox Live Gold exclusives, we were given a very gentle brush-off. Which is fine; maybe they were just figuring out which would be Gold and which would be included. And now it turns out that all of them are Gold.
The news, quietly added to Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold product page and first noticed by Ars, is probably more disappointing than surprising, at least in some instances. SmartMatch, for example, makes perfect sense as an Xbox Live Gold product; if you're not already paying to play online, you don't have much need for something that improves your online play. And while it continues to be absurd that non-gaming products like Netflix and Hulu Plus are hidden behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall, at least putting Skype there is consistent.