Looking around the gaming space right now, there is an awful lot of controversy surrounding Microsoft’s recently announced decision to offer its Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect for $99. In order to get that price, customers must sign up for two years of Xbox Live Gold and pay $15 per month.
According to critics, such pricing can lead to the unraveling of the console market as we know it. Going forward, they say, customers will be forced into online services just to get better pricing on a device. What’s worse, it could see console makers push their prices up, similar to the way carriers do when customers opt to buy a smartphone contract-free, they say.
As I’ve said here countless times before, I’m an old-school gamer that feels a strong connection to history. I don’t like the way the industry is moving today, and I think we should go back to the old ways of doing things.
But in this case, I’m more than happy to see Microsoft change how consoles are priced.
Look, I know that there’s a chance that the deal could be more expensive to customers than simply buying the standalone console, since they’ll be forced to pay for two years of service, but in the Xbox ecosystem, the vast majority of people are paying for online gaming, anyway.
We also can’t forget that the monthly service adds value. With Xbox Live Gold, users can play games online, access additional content, and otherwise enjoy a pretty well-rounded experience in the console space. Xbox Live is, as far as I’m concerned, the best online service on the market.
"Remember the $599 PlayStation 3?"
I’m not sure why so many gaming fans are so upset with paying less to get their hands on hardware. For years, we’ve been upset because consoles launch at exorbitantly high price tags, just so companies can come close to making a profit on each console they sell. Remember the $599 PlayStation 3? How many of the same critics complaining about the $99 Xbox 360 were upset with Sony for that one? You can’t have it both ways.
By offering access to an online service, companies like Sony can reduce the price of that hardware, but still make up for their lost cash. Best of all, more players will be able to get into the gaming mix early. It’s important to not forget that many folks balk at buying a new console until the price has come down to a suitable level. With the new Xbox pricing plan, that’s finally possible.
So, say what you will about how it might change the console market or impact how consumers buy products, but I think it’s better for all of us. Sure, the total cash outlay over the long-term could be quite high, but the biggest barrier to entry in gaming is console pricing. And thanks to Microsoft’s new move, pricing might not be so bad any longer.