XBL’s New Price: Virtual Gold Takes a Hike

In: Articles by Nicholas "Heartbreak Ridge" Sylvain

30 Aug 2010

hitchhiking_chicksIn the past few years, the price of real gold has trended higher, and today Microsoft announced that their virtual version, aka Xbox Live Gold membership, is joining that trend on November 1, with price increases for all memberships in the United States and bumps in other plans for Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

No price increase is going to go over well with the general populace, but I think this is going to go over poorly for a number of reasons.

The core of Xbox Live for gamers is, and always has been, multiplayer gamers. Microsoft has trumpeted the fact that they have “continually added more content and entertainment experiences for our members, while keeping the price the same” since 2002. True, but the additional “content and entertainment experiences” are frosting on the cake, and I don’t think the core Xbox Live multiplayer experience has substantially changed since it first launched. Yes, we are going to get an upgraded voice codec soon, but I’d be a lot more excited about measures that let me play only with friends and avoid the trash — you know, like clan support? Or perhaps a more robust matchmaking system with better fine-grain controls?

The complaints about Microsoft essentially charging for multiplayer gaming have a long history, but they have always run into the truth that the Xbox Live service is, by and large, executed well and has the benefit of being popular — so you end up joining to keep connected with your friends even if you might otherwise have stayed with a free Silver account or played for free on your Playstation 3.

However, now might be a good time for Microsoft to make this kind of move in the wake of Sony’s efforts to milk its PS3 base for some PSN Plus cash. On the other hand, based on the latest reports about Xbox Live grossing sales of over $1 billion dollars (of which 65 percent is estimated to be profit), then gamers just might be a little sore to have to pony up in the neighborhood of 20 percent more in order to fatten that bottom line.

Furthermore, given that the price increases tend to coincide with areas where Xbox is strongest, like North America and the UK, this might be another sore spot.

The claim regarding additional “content and entertainment experiences” is true, but I wish it meant more than it does. Including Twitter and Facebook as part of those experiences is good, but that doesn’t mean much when the current versions of those services on the 360 are vastly inferior to what you can use on the web or your mobile devices.

Netflix streaming is indeed a big plus in my book, but if that part of Gold went away tomorrow I’d have decent alternative options to paying Microsoft for it (given how many people have a PC of some sort attached to their home network along with a 360). Putting content previously available to all, like demos, betas, and trailers, behind a Gold wall or letting only Gold members have access to sales doesn’t really count as adding to my Gold experience in my book — it’s simply taking things away from the Silver crowd.

Judging by my Twitter feed in the hour or so since this news broke, reaction from many members of the gaming press and regular users is strongly negative, which doesn’t surprise me. Some comment about inflation is fair, but I have a sneaking suspicion that advances in technology and reductions in the cost of some technology is a counterweight to justifying the increase on inflation alone.

This sort of announcement may have gone over better if Microsoft coupled it with announcing how the death of original Xbox support will now lead to bigger and better benefits, but we will have to see how things shake out.

In the meantime, let’s pray for more sub-$40 Xbox Live Gold membership card sales!

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11 Responses to XBL’s New Price: Virtual Gold Takes a Hike

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Nicholas "Heartbreak Ridge" Sylvain

August 30th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I also forgot to mention that Microsoft may also be counting on the psychology of pricing 1 year of XBL at the same price as most new games.

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Jigsaw hc

August 30th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

The price increase is annoying to me. They are not giving me anything new for it but still want me to pay more. Plus, I’d rather pay less and not have their entertainment options. I already have access to all of their entertainment features in other ways that work just fine so playing more for them on Xbox Live is not worth it to me.

Still, Xbox Live does run smoothly and makes gaming with my friends much easier than when I try to with my friends PS3.

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Gemini Ace

August 30th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I couldn’t agree more. That extra money needs to go towards expanding the friends list, clan support, ditching the ads, and keeping me out of games with racist 12 year olds.

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MrMaynard

August 30th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Remember, Remember The First of November
The Subscription, Treason, and Plot
I know of no reason
Why the Xbox Live Treason
Should ever be forgot.

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GamerEdie

August 30th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Maynard… dude… I freakin’ love you!!!

Okay, so just kinda putting this out there: If… and I mean **IF** with the extra price you got expanded friends list, clan support, multiplayer chat filtering, and internet browsing, would we be happier with the extra $10 a month?

I think I would, but I will be deleting my second account, because I can kinda justify it right now, but when they increase prices, it’s so long to two accounts. I don’t care that I’m losing my old Mass Effect character and my Rock Band persona. I can always get those again.

What makes me curious, and kinda mad, is that there was this talk a couple months ago about a family plan for four Gamertags for $100? And now… nothing. Is this something that’s still on the table, or are they totally backtracking on it? Makes me wonder if anyone is actually at the wheel at Xbox.

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HeartbreakRidge

August 30th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

No, it was reconfirmed today (at least by Joystiq) that the $100 family plan is still going to be offered in November (coincidentally…). Still no word if you can buy the family pack via cards and online or just online, yet.

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HeartbreakRidge

August 30th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Oh, and I love this bit from Tycho today at Penny Arcade:

Actually, speaking of the Bible, I just sent Xbox Live’s Major Nelson an e-mail. The subject line was “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.” The message body read “n/t,” because you don’t really need any t to express why the subject line might say such a thing. What a terrible job his must be – to act as the community pinata for decisions made twenty floors above his head.

I’m certain Microsoft has a model which states that a slight percentage of people won’t renew, just as they have a model which states that selling the Kinect at hundred and fifty dollars or selling it at one-thirty is a wash, but it’s only a “wash” if you’re prepared to call the volcanic hatred these decisions generate irrelevant, which is profoundly untrue.

It may be that as a communicator, I am obsessed with communication. It may be that I have a tendency to exaggerate its importance over other factors in the grand scheme, for example, wealth – but the timing on this is absolutely abysmal.

Fresh from a show where the last weeping strains of hardcore enthusiasm for the Kinect were silenced, and you’re thinking that, well, at least I have my old thing that I like, they engineer a Reverse Christmas Event against your friends list. It’s like a ransom letter cobbled entirely out of drop caps from high finance publications, which reads “WE HAVE YOUR FRIENDS. THEY ARE SAFE. FOR NOW.”

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MrMaynard

August 31st, 2010 at 8:28 am

Edie to your response there.. thank you.

Also I would agree with those Ideas that were stated there. However I think Microsoft needs to start a Tier list.

Ive told Steve about it. Here’s exactly what I said:

Silver / free : Same as it is now, but now allow buying XBLA titles and Indie games.

Gold / 39.99 : Online Gaming, All Chat options, On Demand games, Netflix (if you have a subscription) and all of silver perks

Platinum / 59.99 : Silver and gold perks, Facebook (useless), Twitter (useless), Last.FM (sorta useful), No Ads, Discount prices on XBLA and On Demand Games, and as you added, an Internet Browser.

But in collusion, we’ll never get it. M$ well Jew us to death like Bobby is with his CAWAYDEWTY nut jobs. (sorry if the Jew mentioning is offensive, but at this time how bad this is.. it deserves it)

TL;DR
It wont effect me that much, I’ll still use the service (lurking newegg, amazon, and whatever places that have subscriptions for sale first), but this was a REALLY BAD PR MOVE.

HBR is right.. Major is being the Huge Pinata right now. Sucks to be him. Cant wait to hear how many offensive voice mails he got on the next show.

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GamerEdie

August 31st, 2010 at 1:57 pm

First off… let me say that the Major has a tough job indeed. He is the Viva Pinata.

HOWEVER… and I say this with all the love that one nice person can have for another genuinely nice person… AND I say this as someone who respects his job professionally…

Don’t Cry for the Major, Argentina.
He makes more money than you do.
He knows the risks, he keeps the job.
He wants the money, he gets the problems…
He wants the money, he gets the prooooblleeems….

(apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber)

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The Lemon of Truth

September 1st, 2010 at 9:20 am

Well, being from Canada, we already pay $59.99 a year, and pay $20 for only 1400 MS points, so we are pretty used to overpaying Microsoft. As long as they don’t bring up the price for us again, this won’t seem that much different to us.
Still pisses me off that we don’t even get a full 1600 MS points. Can’t believe how many times I had to buy two cards just to get one game of XBLA.

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Cephiros

September 1st, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Last time I bought a card was for $35 and I’m good until July 2011. In addition. I have another card I purchased so my girlfriend could play 1 vs. 100 that we never used and now we won’t for her since it was canned.

That puts me in good until July 2012. After that, we’ll where the service stands at point in time.

Also, MrMaynard, you’re cool as hell and sometimes I do disagree with things you say on twitter, etc. However, I don’t think your perceived viewpoint of Microsoft’s greed warrants the use of an ethnic stereotype.

Just like saying something is gay for being bad, etc. There better ways to express your outrage than this.

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