Was it a real experiment, or just a quick cash-in?
Microsoft has discreetly wound down its Xbox 360 subscription plan, whereby North American consumers would pay $99 upfront for an Xbox 360 console with a Kinect and Xbox Gold, followed by $14.99 a month over the following two years.
The manufacturer trialled the scheme back in 2012, provoking speculation that it would ultimately adopt a full-blown smartphone-style subscription model across all Xbox consoles. In April last year, I suggested that the ability to stagger one's next gen outlay might give the Xbox One a killer advantage over PS4, following rumours to this effect from a credible source.Alas, Microsoft appears to think that the upfront revenue model is safer for the moment. That's despite enthusiasm on the subject from Studios boss Phil Spencer, who observed in late 2012 that "I think it should be part of our model, absolutely".
Speaking to the Washington Post yesterday, a company spokesperson downplayed the implications of the trial. "This program was intended to be a pilot experiment from the start, and Microsoft routinely adjusts the mix of offers available to its customers and this change was simply standard business practice."
IDC analyst Lewis Ward speculates that the idea was to eke a little more juice out of the Xbox 360 market, ahead of the drop in old gen hardware sales brought about by the Xbox One's announcement. "Part of the calculus was probably the numbers of customers who were buying Xbox 360 through that approach tapered off," he told the paper, adding that the subscription was designed to "[squeeze] the last 10-15% out of the potential market."
Would you still buy a subscription-based Xbox? I know I would.