UPDATE: As of a short time ago, and due to massive public outcry, Xbox has announce that the Xbox Live Gold price hike is no more. In addition, they’re going to be opening the platform’s online play up more to those who don’t want Gold, including announcing that all F2P games will no longer require Gold. It’s a start! Thank you to everyone who made their unhappiness known!
As for me, I actually passed on buying a Series X during this whole deal (in my cart and everything). So yeah, up front, it cost them a Series X sale. Now that it’s been resolved, well … I’ll start looking again.
Thank you, Xbox folks, for realizing how bad an idea this was, for listening, and for responding,
Original post below:
Well, I didn’t expect to be posting this today. But in fairness, Microsoft has blindsided everyone with this move, from fans to prospective buyers. And in the process, during the launch period of their own console they’ve basically shot it in the back.
Let me explain. Microsoft is one of the juggernauts in the game console space right now, alongside Sony and Nintendo. In December/November of 2020, both Microsoft and Sony launched their newest hardware iterations. Both are vast improvements over the underpowered hardware that the prior generation delivered, and both were high on people’s shopping lists. In fact, until this morning, the Series X was high on mine. Now? I’m not so sure.
Why? Well, let’s talk about “the tax.” See, back in the day, console hardware did not have online functionality. There were some experiments with it, but nothing that was really solid, and nothing that compared to the online capability when it came to PCs. PCs had online play back during the birth of the internet, with players using dial-up to play RTS games and FPS titles. While console players were still discovering FPS titles with Goldeneye and blown away by 4 player free-for-alls, PC players were already playing Counterstrike with 15 other players across the globe. On the PC, it was simply part of the experience.
The console? Not so much. But Microsoft wanted to change that. And so with their entry into the console world, they started working to bring over the multiplayer of PC gaming and introduced the world to Xbox Live.
Of course, building this all from scratch (whereas the PC had all the infrastructure in place) they decided to charge people for it. And so Xbox Live Gold was born, a service that players paid a monthly or yearly fee for in order to be able to play online. And at the time, it grudgingly did make sense. Microsoft was building the system for a world that didn’t have it, and blazing a trail at the same time. No one had what they had. Their closest competitor, Sony’s frequently and rightfully mocked Playstation Network, was free, but was quite literally a case of “You get what you pay for.” Low speeds, constant drops, and just about every other problem you could think of (including security-wise, as infamously discovered when it turned out that every single PSN user’s name and credit card info had been stored in plaintext on an open server anyone could access).
Over time, however, that changed. Playstation Network added new “modules” that came with expected functionality at additional cost, and the console world was online at last.
At which point that extra “tax” to get the system up and running … was no longer needed … but Microsoft kept it around because hey, free money. Which was annoying, but players put up with it … until Microsoft actively started making its own points about how it should be free.
The largest two points in this direction? Play Anywhere and Crossplay, both things that MS has been pushing hard in the last few years. Let me explain these terms. Play Anywhere is the idea that if you buy your game from on a MS system, you should be able to play it where you want. So my copy of Forza 4? I can install and play it on my Xbox One, on my PC, or both. Same with every game that has this feature, which as of last year, is every game MS puts out.
Pretty sweet setup. Not only can I install the game where I want and play it, but I can move it around if I so desire.
Add to this Crossplay. Crossplay is unification between online systems. In the old days even if you own the same game as your friend, if they were on PC and you were on a console, you couldn’t play together. But now? Not only can you play where you want, you can play with people on the other side of the fence as well.
So what’s the problem? Well, as MS has pushed for more and more of these things to become standard, it’s raised troubling comparisons between their system and the PC. The PC ecosystem where all their games can be played now … but without paying $60 a year to play online or with friends. Xbox Live Gold has become a tax on having the system. I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t even play Horde in Gears 5 on my Xbox without shelling out the tax, while simply installing the game on PC (the same game, same copy owned on my account) would allow me to play all I wanted sans tax.
In other words, this online tax has become, over the last few years, a reason not to buy the hardware. It’s a mark against owning an Xbox, an extra cost that tips the scales away from owning a console and towards owning a PC.
But then rumor began to circulate that with the success of the Game Pass (another system that is effectively Netflix but for video games), Xbox Live Gold was on its way out. And good riddance. After all, why pay for something that’s free elsewhere? A new Xbox costs about as much as a new GPU … but more once you factor the tax in. The infrastructure is there, and there’s no reason to be charging for it anymore. Rumor (and common sense) said that Live was on its way out.
Except it isn’t, and as of this morning, Microsoft has announced that they are doubling the price of the tax per year, from $60 a year to $120.
And just like that, my desire to acquire a new Xbox Series X, something I’ve been hunting for and held cash to purchase for several months now … evaporated.
Why? Why bother? Sure, it’s a nice piece of hardware, but I could just buy myself a new GPU with that same money and not pay the tax … while still playing the games.
With this announcement, Microsoft is literally telling the public not to purchase their new console over other hardware. Sure, you’ll have the new, powerful system … You’ll just need to pay $120 a year to access its basic functions … functions that are around $60 a year on their rival platform, or FREE on the PC. Which again, is someplace you can take all their recent games if you so desire, and avoid the tax.
Microsoft have put a gun to the back of their own system’s head and pulled the trigger.
This is a death blow. Xbox Live Gold was already the least attractive part of an Xbox purchase, since again, you were paying extra for features considered free and normal on a “competitor” you could already play the same games on. Now, to double the price of this tax for no reason other than “because?” This is MS asking people to leave their hardware sitting on shelves.
The Series X may be a powerful machine, but that doesn’t excuse the tax, nor the doubling. Bentley doesn’t charge everyone a subscription service to use their cars’ headlights and windshield wipers with good reason: It’d be stupid. They already come with the car, and no one else charges a subscription fee for something that’s included by default.
But not only does Microsoft do so with Xbox Live Gold, but they’ve just doubled the price. Comparatively, this is a car manufacturer trying to charge for such things while at the same time offering to let you take what you like about their car to another brand that doesn’t charge for those things.
And it’s hammered one heck of a nail into my desire to pick up a Series X. Like most rational people, I was expecting a service that they already offered for free elsewhere to become free … not double in price.
So goodbye Series X. You had power, certainly. But I really don’t want to pay a subscription fee to use the headlights or the wipers. Until Microsoft changes its tune, I don’t see why I’d bother.
Sands, I wonder what the people who made the Series X are thinking right now. I know what I’d be hearing:
Because that’s what this is.