Mobile phone customers in the US are already used to getting free or reduced-price hardware when they sign up for a two-year mobile service agreement. Now a report suggests Microsoft might be looking at a similar offering for its Xbox One ecosystem.
Windows Central reports that its sources inside Microsoft indicate that the company is currently planning to roll out an “Xbox All Access” plan, which would give users free hardware if they sign up for two years of Xbox Live and the Netflix-style Xbox Games Pass. All Access subscriptions would cost about $22 a month for a plan with Xbox One S hardware or $35 a month for the more powerful Xbox One X hardware, according to the report. Users would be able to cancel their subscriptions after two years and keep the hardware.
As described, an All Access pass would be a pretty good deal for consumers. Paying $528 over two years for the lower-tier All Access plan would actually cost less than buying a $230 Xbox One S then spending $360 on subscriptions (for a total of $590). For the higher-end plan, paying $840 over two years ends up slightly better than paying $500 for the Xbox One X hardware and another $360 for subscriptions ($860 total).
A way to stand out
A lot depends on the final pricing and hardware package details for the plans. Regardless, subsidizing cheap or free Xbox hardware in exchange for a long-term subscription could make a lot of sense for Microsoft, which has been struggling in its market share battle with the PS4.
Microsoft has long said it’s more focused on finding engaged customers rather than inflating its relative hardware sales numbers compared to the competition. As Xbox division chief Phil Spencer said in 2015: “[Market] share is important, but more important than share is ‘are we gaining new customers, are they buying games, are they engaged in the service.'”
Locking new users into long-term subscriptions could help with that engagement and help promote the year-old Games Pass service, which Microsoft says increases overall console usage among subscribers by 20%. In January, Microsoft committed to making all first-party Xbox One games available to Games Pass subscribers on their launch date, a move that helped Sea of Thieves reach a critical mass of two million players in the first week after its March launch.
With little to no upfront cost and instant access to hundreds of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games through Games Pass, All Access as described could help the Xbox One stand out a bit from the console competition.
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