Today, Microsoft announced prices for its next-gen consoles: $299 or $499 for an Xbox Series S or Xbox Series X, respectively, starting November 10. But Microsoft is also talking about a smartphone-like program that will allow players to get both systems for free with money upfront as part of a subscription called Xbox All Access.
We’ve seen no-money Xbox hardware plans like this before — a similar All Access program has been available for the Xbox One line since 2018. But we’re taking this high-profile opportunity to remind you of a little-known fact about Xbox All Access: It can save new console buyers money in the long run, as well as upfront.
What is going on?
Let’s go through the numbers first. With Xbox All Access, you make a two-year commitment to pay $24.99/month (for Xbox Series S) or $34.99/month (for Xbox Series X). In exchange for that commitment, you get the relevant hardware upfront to keep, as well as a two-year subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Game Pass Ultimate usually costs $14.99/month, so your monthly All Access payments will be a little higher to make up for that “free” hardware up front. But in addition to not having to spend hundreds of dollars at once, All Access subscribers can really get ahead at the end of two years.
For Xbox Series S:
- With All Access: $0 upfront + $24.99/month * 24 months = $599.67
- Without All Access: $299 upfront + $14.99/month * 24 months = $658.76
- All Access Savings: $59.09
For Xbox Series X:
- With All Access: $0 upfront + $34.99/month * 24 months = $839.76
- Without All Access: $499 upfront + $14.99 * 24 months = $858.76
- All Access Savings: $19.00
So All Access subscribers save a lot of money up front and a little bit of money in the long run compared to players who buy their console and Game Pass separately. Not a bad deal, all things considered.
What’s the catch?
Before you jump on the All Access train, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, of course, All Access is only worth checking out if you’re primarily interested in Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate subscription. That subscription is already a pretty good price, though, and offers downloadable and xCloud streaming access to hundreds of titles in Xbox history, as well as over 200 Windows games for PC players. A Game Pass subscription also includes every Microsoft Game Studios game on the day it’s released and now comes with the full EA Play library as a bonus.
But if you’d rather buy your games individually and not be stuck with Microsoft’s subscription selection, you’d better pre-purchase your console.
Even if you think Game Pass looks appealing, keep in mind that All Access will also keep you committed to that subscription for a full two years. If you try Game Pass and find yourself wanting to cancel the subscription after 6 months, or 12 months, or 23 months, you’re still locked into monthly payments for the rest of the full two years. If you want more flexibility to try the subscription plan, All Access is not for you.
It’s also important to remember that Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions are often offered at significant discounts above the list price of $14.99 per month. By taking advantage of those deals, a savvy console buyer can save a little money through the Xbox All Access subscription.
The last thing to keep in mind is that Xbox All Access isn’t really available to every Xbox buyer. Microsoft has announced 11 countries where participating retailers will be offering the subscription deal this holiday season, with more planned for next year:
- Australia at Telstra
- Canada at EB Games
- Denmark at Elgiganten
- Finland at Gigantti
- France at FNAC
- New Zealand at Spark
- Norway at Elkjøp
- Poland at Media Expert
- South Korea at SK Telecom
- Sweden at Elgiganten
- VK at GAME and Smyths Toys
- United States at Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Microsoft Store and Walmart
Not every customer will be able to use the All Access subscription in those countries either. Participation is subject to credit review and approval of a line of credit from Citizens One Bank, which partners with Microsoft for the program. This credit line does not involve any costs or interest and can be paid off early without penalty. Still, customers who have had credit problems in the past may find that they cannot be approved for All Access in the first place.
Microsoft’s Shifting Focus
Microsoft has been saying for some time that success is no longer measured purely by console market share for Xbox hardware. “We’re not motivated by beating Sony, we’re motivated by bringing in as many customers as possible,” Xbox chief Phil Spencer said in 2015. More recently, Spencer said he sees streaming giants like Amazon and Google “as the main competition going forward.” “, instead of Nintendo and Sony.
All Access largely reflects this new focus. Rather than requiring prepayment to offset the cost of its hardware, Microsoft is playing the long game by tying All Access customers to a two-year subscription program. For Microsoft, losing initial and total revenue over those two years (compared to “standard” pricing) is a small cost to getting more players used to the idea of a Game Pass subscription.
And Microsoft isn’t just hoping those All Access subscribers forget to cancel their expensive monthly subscriptions after two years. A Microsoft representative told Ars Technica: “Once the 24-month subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate included with Xbox All Access expires, you’ll need to purchase a new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership or separate Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Purchase a Pass membership to continue to enjoy the benefits of Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass.”
In other words, Microsoft won’t hold you to an auto-renewal plan that will lock up your credit card until you remember to tell them to stop. After 24 months it is up to you to renew or revoke.
Microsoft seems confident that some of its All Access customers will renew after tasting the service for two years. But even those who don’t are locked into Microsoft’s console ecosystem rather than Sony’s, without having to invest hundreds of dollars upfront.
Combined with Game Pass, Xbox All Access is one of the most interesting changes in the way we think about buying next-generation console hardware in a long time. We’ll be watching with interest to see if this program attracts a critical mass of consumers looking for a new console this holiday season at no upfront cost.