Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Microsoft Raises Prices For Xbox Live Gold

Microsoft has decided to raise the price of access to Xbox Live Gold. Starting on November 1st, access to the Gold service - which is the only way to play games online, and comes with other perks such as access to Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, discounted weekly titles and other benefits - will have the following prices:
* Yearly access will cost $59.99/yr for Americans, up from $49.99.
* Three month access will cost $24.99 for Americans, up from $19.99.
* One month access will cost $9.99/mo. for Americans and Canadians, up from $7.99 and $8.99, respectively. The UK will pay £5.99/mo instead of £4.99, and Mexico will pay 599 Pesos instead of 499 Pesos.
* All other pricing models will be unaffected.
In addition, Microsoft is running a promotion that allows people to "lock in" their price before October 31st for $40. After this, however, the price would revert back to $60 while auto-billed.

Jesse Divinch of EEDAR stated that he doesn't believe the price hike will have much impact until late 2011, due to the promotions that Microsoft will run in the meantime. He also pointed out that with ESPN, Netflix, Last.FM and other products integrated, even with a $10 price increased, it "still represents an incredible value to consumers", while noting that the cost of the service in 2010 is consistent with the cost of the service in 2002 once inflation is taken into account.

I'd like to know where the "value" is. Even at $50, we are forced to pay not only for the right to play games online, but the ability to do *anything* online. For example, I can't update rosters in sports games without Gold. In fact, I can't do my job without Gold, as many games are completely integrated into online play, and therefore require Gold. Some games like Team Fortress 2 are literally unplayable without Xbox Live Gold. The fact that this is a compulsory purchase for me, and likely for others, is ridiculous.

I'm sure Microsoft will let Larry Hyrb out of his cage long enough to justify the price increase due to the "value" that's on the service with Netflix and the others, but let's not forget that all of these services either require fees to other companies (Netflix, Last.FM), aren't available for all customers regardless of money (ESPN3 requires that your ISP have a deal with ESPN/Disney), or is significantly harder to use on the Xbox than it is on a regular computer (Twitter, Facebook). This is assuming you have these services available, of course; people in the UK and Mexico don't, in a lot of cases.

All of this is for... what? Microsoft seems only to ban people who are cheating, using illicit games, or violating someone's copyright. I still get called horrible, juvenile names every time I am forced to play against other people online. There is still a 100 friend limit. Microsoft has not given people any reason whatsoever to willingly pay for Xbox Live that does not involve someone else being paid a significant monthly fee, and instead hold ransom the ability to get important, critical options out of our $60 purchases.

Finally, for anyone thinking that they can just sign up for the $40 price and immediately cancel their rebills, know what you're getting into first. The option to cancel rebills is buried on the Xbox website, and once it's selected, you are forced to go through THREE separate pages letting you know what you'll be giving up by cancelling Xbox Live, after which you're finally allowed to click the option to cancel out. Otherwise, you have to call a phone number, at which point the marketing hard sell begins again. I've seen pornography sites that are easier to cancel out of than Microsoft's.

Xbox Live Gold is a scam, but Microsoft has wrapped everything so tight that they've made Silver detrimental. They are charging more money because they can get away with it, and in reality, they could probably get away with charging $100/yr. if they wanted to.

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