Microsoft has been in the home console business for over twenty years now. More than half of that time has been defined by the success of their Xbox Live service, which, in the mid-2000s, was the gold standard of home console online play. However, due to the bizarre timing of Xbox Live’s rollout, customers got accustomed to paying for access to the service.
This has long been a point of contention for PC players: why are console players paying any money at all just to access online multiplayer lobbies? Microsoft (as well as Sony, who is guilty of the same bizarre practice) has tried to remedy this by offering free games that players can download as a gift for having the online service. However, PC gamers get that, too: Epic Games Store regularly just doles out free games for anyone who wants them.
Microsoft Announces Price Hike, Backpedals
On Friday, Microsoft announced a massive price hike for their Xbox Live service. So massive, in fact, that fans were truly baffled. The company announced it had plans to double the price of a yearly subscription from $60 to $120, effectively making Xbox Live Gold cost the same amount as Xbox Game Pass. Many online critics pointed out this was likely to get people more willing to sign up for Game Pass Ultimate, which includes Xbox Live Gold, and is $15 per month.
However, this price hike was panned by critics all over the internet. Microsoft isn’t exactly in the best spot to be making such bold moves right now: Sony’s PlayStation 4 handily won the last console generation, thanks in no small part to its stable of exclusive titles. While Microsoft has worked to shore up their exclusive deals, they’re currently the underdog. Burning fan goodwill by hiking up the price of an already arbitrary subscription is not the way to win over the hearts and minds of gamers.
The company quickly reversed the decision, and even went as far as making free to play games on the Xbox no longer require Xbox Live Gold. While the end result was better for more people, it is perplexing that the company ever thought such a massive price hike was going to fly.
Next-Gen Consoles Still Unavailable
Another PR disaster for Microsoft (as well as Sony, of course) has been the widespread unavailability of the new systems. The Xbox Series X and S, as well as the competing PlayStation 5, have been out of stock since before they were available for purchase, essentially. The systems have been hitting multiple bottlenecks. For one thing, the pandemic has reduced the available stock by keeping factories closed for months.
Another choke-point, again pandemic related: sales for the system have been almost entirely relegated to online stores. This has led to scalpers using bots to scoop up every unit they can and then flipping them for a huge increase in cost on sites like eBay. This has made it almost impossible for the average consumer to actually buy the system for its MSRP, meaning, for many, the next console generation hasn’t even started yet, and it won’t until supply reaches levels that see the systems actually on store shelves.