The new pricing for Xbox Live Gold membership hit the internet yesterday, and immediately a wall of grumbling went up from Camp Green. In the US, the new pricing shows an across the board increase; up $10 on the annual option.
Before you join the grousing too heartily, consider a few things.
1) It’s still the best service available.
The most common complaint seen so far is that the PS3 offers online gaming for FREE, so where does Microsoft get off charging at all, let alone charging more for their service? But there’s a reason we’re not all switching en masse to playing multiplayer primarily on the PSN. On XBL it is just easier to navigate, easier to communicate, easier to organize a group. Even Playstation’s paid option (PSN+) doesn’t offer the most needed features like cross game voice chat and static parties that makes Live the best.
2) Nobody pays full price.
With all the promotional offers and near constant discounts at Walmart or Amazon, almost no one currently pays the full $50 a year for Live. Sure this price increase will mean those discounted prices will rise some as well, but not for a long time. There’s already a sale on cards for $40 right now. Known price increases like this result in arbitrage in the marketplace, with patient opportunists snatching up product at a low price, and reselling for a slight profit once the prices are raised. We should continue to see significant discounts on XBL cards well into the new year.
3) This is good business.
It’s tough to separate our hobby from the business behind it. I know I often argue for how the artistic and creative aspects of this industry should outweigh the dollars and cents. But in this instance, we’re talking about the price of a service. We’ll find out soon if the market will bear this price increase, but my educated guess is that it absolutely will.
4) This is a preemptive move.
There’s extra subscription budget out there, but for how long? With more and more gamers paying for subscription services, it will get harder to make a price change like this in the future. Activision has been quite verbal in recent months about its desire to generate subscription revenue from its titles and their online play. No doubt this entered into Microsoft’s decision to try to capture some more of this revenue before gamers had one more subscription in their budget.
I’m not telling you not to complain… that’s 100% your right as a consumer. Just remember, if Microsoft has to choose between listening to your mouths or your wallets, they’ll choose wallet every time.