With the release of the new Xbox Live update that adds support for Microsoft’s forthcoming Kinect motion controller, so began the new pricing scheme for an Xbox Live Gold Membership. Many were disappointed that after so many years of a consistent fee Microsoft finally decided to change the price, especially with Sony still offering their online service free of charge. In an interview with Gamasutra, Xbox Live marketing senior director Craig Davison spoke about what went into the decision for the price hike.
When it comes to gaming exclusives, Microsoft is able to secure some of the more anticipated pieces of DLC for the big sellers like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately, getting those exclusives does come at a price. In order to satisfy those companies who might see the benefit in making their content more readily available across all platforms, Microsoft has to reach a monetary agreement that suits all parties. In the end gamers are, in essence, paying for the ability to have exclusives by way of their Xbox Live fee, and then paying again to actually enjoy those exclusives. Says Davison:
"Now in 2002, it was strictly multiplayer gaming. Now we get those Call of Duty map packs before anybody else does. We’ve got Gears and Halo, of course, as exclusives. We continue to get exclusives on the service as well. And we’ve gone from 400,000 members in our first year to 25 million."
"So during that time, we’ve definitely got to fund it, and we want to add more and more and more. ESPN is a great example. No extra charge for Xbox Live Gold members. But we want to continue to bring that content in. We also want to continue to innovate on all dimensions, whether it’s social, entertainment, or gaming. So there you go."
What seems most strange about this whole situation is that Microsoft also sees the act of simply carrying titles like Halo or Gears of War as justifiable exclusives, as well. In order to stay competitive in this changing video game market, the best way to secure loyalty to your console is with an enticing catalog of games, but not at the consumer’s expense. Gamers should not have to foot the bill for Microsoft's console exclusives.
At the end of the day, Microsoft can justify their Xbox Live price in a number of different ways, because they provide a service that works and has a lot of features Sony’s free service does not. Perhaps in the future, knowing that the monthly fee provides the ability for Xbox to secure exclusives might be enough to satisfy subscribers, but right now with DLC prices so high, they aren’t seeing the benefit.
Does knowing that the Xbox Live price goes into securing exclusives for the console help mitigate your anger over the price hike?