zophar53's Blog

Posted on Sep 3rd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Xbox All Access, Xbox, subscriptions

I was browsing through my Twitter feed during a slow moment at work, as one does, and came across a piece of news that was both unexpected, and intriguing for its potential to change the way traditional console games are acquired.

Last Monday, Microsoft announced the introduction of something they're calling Xbox All Access. Most of the info about All Access is easy to find at this point, but there's some interesting nuances that are worth digging into.

For those who may not have heard of the program yet, the Twitter-length sales pitch is that you get a new Xbox One, a subscription to their Netflix-esque Game Pass, and an Xbox Live Gold subscription. The customer pays nothing up front, instead making interest-free monthly payments for the next 24 months. If this model sounds familiar, that's because it's basically the same one we've been using to buy our cell phones for the last handful of years.

I've believed for a while now that the idea of a traditional console "generation" is a bit outdated in this new age of content patches, firmware updates, and games as a service. Mid-lifecycle updates like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have only made this more apparent. As media technology advances, modern innovations are becoming increasingly more co-dependent. One can't get the most out of the newest SKUs of consoles without a 4K TV and HDR, and if you don't have reliable high speed internet you've had a less-than-optimal experience with games for a while now. We've come to a place with console gaming that mirrors the PC model. We can't just get the new Xbox and be good for the next 5-6 years. To get the best experience from our consoles we need a fancy TV, a quality router, and subscribe to a service to play online multiplayer. I knew the console lifecycle was changing, and although a cell phone-like purchase plan is something I didn't expect, it makes a lot of sense in many ways.

Cell phone leasing is how a lot of people (myself included) are able to always get the newer better phone. I've been trading up my phone every 6-8 months for about five years now. And for those who don't mind being a few models behind, they can buy a nice phone for a cheap monthly payment, then own it outright and have a cheaper phone bill. I haven't bought an Xbox One X (or even an S) yet, but I'd be more willing to upgrade from my launch edition model if it meant I could pay it off slowly and get Game Pass and Live Gold at the same time instead of shelling out $500 for the console alone right after buying a fancy new TV.

If something like this is successful, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that when the next Xbox is released, Microsoft introduces a program where people who are currently in an All Access payment plan can trade in their console for the new one by re-upping their contract. The downside to this is, much like people who lease and upgrade their phones and cars, they'll never own their game console. The game collector/historian in me cries blasphemy. But in the gaming world, where a lot of people always have to have the new shiny, it's a fairly painless way to do that. From the math I've found (thanks Polygon lol), it would even end up saving you a few bucks in the long term if you're the kind of person who just wants to pay it off and be done with it. Specifically, we're talking a savings of about $132 if you go with an S, and about $20 if you choose an X.

As cool and progressive as this might be though, there are a couple other caveats. Xbox All Access is only available at physical Microsoft Store locations, from now through December 31st, and "while supplies last." Looking at the Microsoft Store location page, most major cities in the US seem to be covered, but there's a lot of places outside the vicinity of those cities that are going to be out of luck. Even the one "local" to me in Cleveland is a good half hour away. There are a handful of stores in Canada, Australia, and Puerto Rico, but All Access is for the US only. Sorry crabby.

The big thing though, and the biggest reason for me personally to not want to try this out, is that the All Access subscription plan will not be managed by Microself themselves. They've partnered with Dell computers to handle the financing. To be clear, I have nothing against Dell. I've used Dell computers at work and at times in my personal life for years; they make good stuff. But what this arrangement means is that when you sign up for Xbox All Access, what you're doing is applying for a Dell Preferred Account credit line, which means you have to pass a credit check. For me and a lot of others, that could be a dealbreaker.

Another reason I haven't upgraded: I clearly play my PS4 way more often than my poor Xbox One

My credit is fine, and again, nothing against Dell. I bought my first laptop with a Dell credit line. But I monitor my finances and credit report very closely these days. I make credit decisions very carefully and deliberately, and I'm not willing to get a new credit card to take part in Microsoft's new program, especially when I could just put the cost of the whole All Access subscription on a credit card I already have and pay it off at whatever speed I want (they say you can pay the whole price of All Access up front, if you like). But if I do that, then I'll likely end up paying some interest, which would negate most if not all of the savings I'd get out of All Access. Considering that I'd be going with an X model and would only be theoretically saving $20 anyway, and in the two years it takes to pay the thing off the price for them at retail will almost surely go down, there wouldn't be much point anymore.

Not only are there a lot of people who monitor their credit closely, but there's a lot of people out there with bad credit. Obviously, I donít know what Dell's credit policies are or how strict their guidelines are when deciding to extend a credit line to a customer, but there'd probably be some people left out because of their credit score. At least when you lease a cell phone, they check your credit but don't open up a new tradeline on your credit report.

What all this means is that this is very clearly Microsoft experimenting with a new business model. The last time they tried to shake up the console landscape by first announcing the Xbox One and it's then-digitally-forward infrastructure, it was an unmitigated disaster, and they've been playing catch-up ever since. The great thing about that though, is that Phil Spencer and the rest of the new guard heading up the Xbox division have been humbled into making some pretty great decisions over the last few years, and they're still in a position to do some smart experimentation. This is the part of All Access that gets me really excited.

Console gaming has been going through tremendous changes ever since the PS3/Xbox 360 era, and that shows no signs of stopping. Better technology and easier access to more ways to play games means that change will not only continue to happen, but will need to happen. I want to see new things and new ways of thinking, because that's where the next big innovations and leaps forward come from. That's a mindset that has served Nintendo well for close to two decades now. Sometimes they try something and it doesn't work, and as frustrating as their archaic ways of doing business can sometimes be, I absolutely love Nintendo for doing their own thing and taking chances. I never know what to expect from them. Every hardware announcement they make has me going "that's so bonkers!", followed by "but it's also so cool!", and the games industry is a better place with them in it giving developers ideas and introducing new concepts. And when one of their crazy, off-the-wall ideas does work, it works VERY well. That's the kind of thinking I want to see out of Microsoft and Sony.

So good on ya Microsoft! I'm excited to see if people take to the idea of a game console payment plan. Despite my insistence on not opening up a new credit line, I'm tempted to give All Access a go with a credit card I already have just to vote with my dollars and support a new idea. This could very well be an easy way to always be on the cusp of the new console generation, or lower the barrier for entry of new console ownership for those who aren't able to justify spending $500 on the latest new shiny Xbox. I'm sure Sony will be paying attention to how this works out, as well.

I'm curious what everyone else things of Xbox All Access. Are you intrigued or do you not care? Are there any pros or cons I didn't think of? What other business models do you think would be worth exploring? Let us know if the comments below, and enjoy the holiday! Don't work, go have a cookout then play some games Smiley

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Makes sense to me. Like you mentioned other semi-related products already do this and Consoles are and always have been pretty expensive to get while they are current. This makes it quite a bit easier to swallow and still play something new with your friends.

I like having options like this even if its something I have no interest in. As long as someone like myself can still purchase and own a console outright I dont see much harm here.

Im not one to keep up with the latest and greatest (my phone is pushing 5 years now and I dont even have a 1080p TV in my house yet).

Thanks for the personal apology, lol. Im used to missing out on opportunities where I'm at. When limited programs come to Canada they always target Vancouver, Toronto and sometimes Montreal. Im 10 hours away from the nearest of those so it's never worth the effort.
I guess this kind of makes sense, but I've seen this before (sort of).  Remember Dreamcast when it offered the "free" DC (with keyboard and other stuff) when you subscribe to SegaNet for two years (for only $21.95 a month)?  I never bought into it ($21.95 was a lot on 2000), but I remember it being advertised everywhere.

All in all it's a pretty good deal, and something I'm surprised didn't come earlier.  About 50% of the reason I don't buy new consoles is the cost (the other being lack of games I want to play), but something like this would be much for palatable, and I must admit likely an easier sell for parents for birthdays or Christmas.  I also like that it comes with a lot of games right out of the gate.

This also could be a big shoe-in for MS.  I don't see Nintendo or Sony doing this (at least not in North America), so that could be enough to get some more numbers for them in the console popularity contest.
@bombatomba: That deal does sound familiar. I wasn't much of a Sega kid at that time but I remember seeing the ads for it. It's a shame that by then Sega's console releases had cannibalized their own business beyond repair. It was a radical idea for the time.

I think you're right, having a huge install base right out of the gate with Game Pass and backwards compatibility makes this a great deal, esp for parents starting to think about Christmas. I wonder what kind of sales surge we'll see out of it this holiday season. If it does well, I'm sure Microsoft won't be shy about telling us.
Great article, zophar53, and I'm glad you're bringing this to our attention. I know I hadn't heard of this happening yet. This is a very interesting idea, and one that I hope pays off for Microsoft. Not because I have a vested interest in seeing the Xbox brand thrive, but because more competition is better. I'm not sure a Sony & Nintendo only space would be ideal, and while Microsoft has definitely stumbled this generation, a solution like this could really help them carve out a niche that keeps them viable, and still allows them to make it work. I like that this is an option for the digital-only gamer out there, and as bombatomba said, makes it more accessible to families on a tight budget.

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