Edit: Xbox announced they would not change Xbox Live Prices after outrage and backlash due to their original announcement of a price hike. The original post was made about two hours before they made this clear on twitter so now the huge wall of text below has been rendered moot. Unless you just want to read the original discussion, you can skip done a few responses to sources talking about MS reversing the decision. Hope this saves some time.
Today, Xbox announced sometime this morning on an official line they will soon be increasing the price of Xbox Live Gold. While most services over time may increase in price, these increases tend to be pretty gradual, but this one seems extremely unfair and just ridiculous given the circumstances. Soon, the price of Xbox Live will straight up DOUBLE, where the usual $60 used to buy a whole year, now only buys 6 months.
The following is taken straight from the official source on Xbox Wire as a direct quote:
“Members have already been notified in some regions. If you’re in a region where prices are being adjusted, you will receive an email and a message center notification over the next month letting you know what the new pricing is for your membership. Going forward, new pricing will be 1-month for $10.99, 3-months for $29.99, and 6-months for $59.99, or your local market equivalent. You can always visit your account to manage your membership, and prices won’t adjust until at least 45 days after you receive the messages.”
They do note however, for current customers, they are grandfathered in at the current market prices, and when auto-renewal for the customer account rolls around, they will be charged the previous rate ($60/yr, etc.).
A personal take:
This is a dirty move, and one I hope they get angry customer feedback for (rightfully so), and I hope they backtrack on this monumentally awful decision. I imagine though, if they do backtrack however, I doubt it will be back to the original price model, and will instead be a (hypothetical) smaller increase/month or something rather than a straight double in price, so as to say, “see, this isn’t as bad as what we were planning, isn’t this more agreeable?”; a possible tactic game developers like EA and Activision have been using for years to “ease” consumers into paying more, breaching the line into absurd takes and then dialing back just enough to get what they want while making fans feel like they earned something.
They may not backtrack at all though, but it’s not impossible to think they will rollback the pricing changes announced, as when the Xbox One was supposedly going to be launched as an “Always On” system, the sheer volume of outrage and criticism walked back said horrible decision and basically laughed Don Mattrick out of the company. However, should they remain adamant about this decision, I can’t help but feel like this will hurt more than help.
It’s no secret Xbox has been on the backfoot since the PS4 era and the list of exclusives growing either stale or slim. True exclusives to sell consoles are not as easily seen anymore, and while MS has been acquiring studios left and right, like Bathesda as their most notable recent addition, the fruits of these studios’ labors are far away (likely years), where Sony has exclusives coming to PS5 either now or in the VERY close future, say months. MS has been surviving on good will, the stale list of exclusives and brand loyalty, and making some good consumer friendly moves like what they have done to make the Game Pass packages appealing, so they stay head above water until the real stuff lands. This is very counter to the consumer friendly nature they have been building up, and just wrecking balls the whole thing.
It also hits harder because during the period we are currently living in, with multiple countries in lockdown and trying to not get sick from the pandemic, they are pulling this kind of move. When for a lot of people, video games are the only real escape from isolation and from the hard reality, they want to charge double for live, essentially profiting off the current world situation.
I’ve also seen people on twitter defending this move, which I find disagreeable to say the least, noting while Game Pass is a little more expensive and offers incredible value so we should just buy Game Pass, the truth is some of us don’t play enough games to justify the its purchase. I can see power users who go through games as often as people change socks (or should) getting incredible deals for this, but for the person who just wants to play their one or two games online, and don’t care to stream games, and don’t care to play the hundreds of other games in the library, this hurts. I don’t go through lots of MP online games, but I do still play KI online, as well as one or two others, but I don’t have the need to buy this package of service to enjoy the same game I’ve been playing for years now. Gold worked well enough for me to play my KI and Gears and Warframe, I don’t need Game Pass because I don’t play a huge variety of games online.
Another thing I wasn’t even aware of until TODAY, Xbox Live F2P games aren’t truly free to play on the Xbox, which I knew sort of, but on PSN and Nintendo’s services, the same games like Warframe, Fortnite, CoD Warzone, etc. require no subscription to the online services of those platforms to play. Only on Xbox is the subscription to the online service still required to play F2P games, essentially rendering them NOT F2P, and now this DOUBLES what you have to pay to play these games. $120 a year to just play Warzone? When PS4/5 players actually do play it for free? Yeah, I don’t see players dropping the Xbox like a bad habit for that . And for those players new to KI, yeah, it hits the free players there too, which at this point may not be a big deal, but it can be included sort of on the list.
This move is indefensible for so many reasons, especially from what I can gather, you don’t even have to pay for live when you buy Xbox games through the windows 10 store and play them on your PC. In essence, if I got the windows 10 version of KI for my PC, I wouldn’t have to pay the live subscription at all to play online, at least from the information I’ve gathered so far. I’m not 100% sure on this point of discussion so if anyone wants to correct me and set the record straight, please do so. So for right now, the Live service subscription is mostly for console players, and, in essence, punishes you for being a console player instead of a PC player, which kinda defeats the purpose in trying to SELL NEW GENERATION HARDWARE. It kinda makes me regret buying my Series X now.
Further, the twitter people I’ve seen defending this ultimately betray MS’s likely true intentions of this move, being they want to push people to adopt the Game Pass in higher numbers. Making Game Pass a good value for the money given is good marketing, incentivizing players into purchasing said service. However, a move like this, and then saying “well, you’ve gone this far, why not just give in and go another bit and get the Game Pass every month?”; it just seems this is an extremely aggressive way of boosting the numbers and sales of Game Pass in an anti-consumer style move meant to “strong arm” players into buying rather than genuine incentive to attract them.
I think another thing they may have been doing is comparing themselves to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBOMax, and the hundreds of other services out there trying to attract people to their platforms, and realized the prices people pay for those (Netflix $9/$14/$18 tiers, HBOMax $15, Disney+ $7/month though that is schedule to go up soon), are usually higher, so why not raise their prices to match or exceed?
This feels bad, and it makes me question what to do now. I don’t really want to support this, but if this stands, or goes unchallenged by the customer base, Sony and Nintendo will look at this and strike. They may raise their prices too, but say PSN is now $100 a year, $20 less than MS, and Nintendo is probably more than willing to easily undercut them both while still raising their prices anywhere from pennies to several dollars. At the very least, other companies will follow, knowing they can raise prices with little problem from customers. So no matter where you go, console players just draw the short straw no matter the platform, and once again PC proves its dominance. Still, maybe if offered the option, I wouldn’t mind transferring my Warframe account to PC, especially in light of all this happening.
Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe they will roll back the decisions made, only time will tell what will happen, and hopefully things will work out. I’m not in any kind of bad position to take drastic steps, but I’m getting tired of being the only Xbox player in my area anymore trying to find anything redeemable in my brand loyalty, and constantly finding some new reason to have to jump to Playstation. I don’t have a personal problem with any of the consoles or anything, but I’ve come to enjoy my time on Xbox, and I don’t want to have to pick up my stuff and just got to where things are cheaper every time there’s a shift in the meta. Further, this just price gouges people into just getting out of gaming rather than helping them through the door.
Lately, I’ve heard arguments, convincing ones at that, about why Live and PSN should be free, and why even certain games should be free (Jim Sterling makes very compelling arguments on that topic) instead of $60 or in some cases $70 as EA and Activision are trying to pull in the new hardware generation.
Anyway, I know this is a great big wall of text, so take some time to digest it. If it’s not in the appropriate place of discussion, I ask any mods to contact me and help take the correct steps in fixing the problem. Please be respectful to one another, we won’t all agree but I do think this is something worth discussing in a civilized manner.