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Xbox Division Nearly Self-Destructs with Announced, then Retracted, Price-Hike on Gold

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By Nelson Schneider - 01/23/21 at 05:47 PM CT

It’s a new year, and a quick trip through the grocery store will reveal to anyone paying attention that we’ve gotten a pretty severe price hike across the board in 2021. And as this new year begins Microsoft seemed dead set on being the bad guy again, after spending the entirety of the 8th Generation groveling and pandering to gamers in the hope of winning us back after the comically-disastrous XBONE reveal event.

Last summer, when Xbox Live Gold 12-month subscription cards disappeared from retail outlets, the rumor mill started churning up an idea that really excited me, speculating that Microsoft would end the mandatory subscription for online features that has been a defining feature of the Xbox ecosystem since its inception. What with Microsoft’s more recent endeavor to create a “Netflix of videogames” in their Gamepass subscription service – which includes Xbox Live Gold in its price – removing the paywall from basic features was the only rational path to take.

Well, let the record show that Microsoft has never been rational when it comes to Xbox, pouring millions of dollars into a failed ecosystem year after year, decade after decade. Last week, Microsoft pulled off their good guy mask, revealing the horns and goatee beneath, when they announced that Xbox Live Gold was not only sticking around as a mandatory subscription for anyone foolish enough to buy an Xbox, but will be DOUBLING in price from $60/year to an egregious $120, putting its pricing in-line with Amazon Prime.

Unsurprisingly, there was customer backlash a-plenty from the Xbox fanbase (as small and pathetic as it is), which was, nevertheless, inflammatory enough that Microsoft actually backed-down, leaving Xbox Live Gold at the old price of $60/year… for now.

The very fact that Microsoft decided to double the cost of its basic service whilst simultaneously continuing to vigorously flog the ‘value-added’ version of the service that is Gamepass just shows how horribly, terribly, absurdly out-of-touch the corporate executives responsible for making big decisions are. $60/year was never just pocket change, even though it does shake-out to $5/month at that rate. But over the lifespan of a console, that adds up, easily meeting the up-front hardware cost of said console. If Microsoft had forced the new pricing through in the face of popular protest, the simple ‘maintenance’ cost of owning an Xbox Series X for a decade would be $1,200! That amount of money could buy an entry-level gaming PC all by itself, without even taking the cost of the console (and its now-inevitable mid-gen replacement) into account!

The cynic in me thinks this is a calculated move on Microsoft’s part. In order to silence the grumbling of those who got excited about the very concept of Xbox ditching its mandatory subscriptions, they threatened to double the basic cost, making the status quo seem like a good thing in comparison. But not all of us are so easily fooled by corporate shenanigans. This was, in fact, a very bald-faced attempt by Microsoft to shore-up the only actual profit-generating channel attached to the Xbox Division. With nearly every Xbox owner exploiting the $1 ‘Upgrade’ from Xbox Live Gold to Gamepass Ultimate, pushing the price of the former closer to the price of the latter does two things: It generates an amount of income for Microsoft much closer to what they can expect to generate from Gamepass after the ‘Upgrade’ period ends, making their accountants happy, and secondly, it gets the Xbox audience used to paying a higher price for service, which could push a critical mass of them over the edge from Live Gold to Gamepass Ultimate, since “it’s only $5 more.”

In the end, no matter how conciliatory they may try to sound in press releases and public statements on Twitter, Microsoft is NOT anyone’s friend. It is NOT a good guy corporation, standing up for gamers in any way, shape or form. It’s a profit-seeking monster that will exploit things that should be free for the sake of squeezing ever greater quantities of blood from a stone. And we would be well served NEVER to forget that!

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Wrote on01/25/21 at 07:56 AM CT

Your last paragraph is partly why I’ve had Linux installed alongside Windows for the past seven years...

On a gaming note, in some alternate universe—it’s definitely possible considering Schrodinger’s reasoning—there is a successful steam box that competes for the living room to the demise of Sony and Microsoft. This world is much better for online gamers and gamers in general since Steam is the way to go.

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