Ever felt the cost of consoles was too much? Well, now you'll be able to buy consoles like a mobile phone, with Xbox launching a new subscription model called "Xbox All Access" in Australia, the United States and the UK.
The subscription model will be available in two tiers, provided you're an existing Telstra post-paid customer. For $27 a month with no upfront cost, you can grab an Xbox One S with Forza Horizon 4, 24 months membership to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which includes Xbox Live Gold and access to Game Pass games on Xbox and PC), as well as a single controller. If you want an Xbox One X instead, the whole package is $38 a month. Both bundles are available from Telstra online and in-store from today, while the Xbox All Access program won't be available in the US and UK until next month.
Both plans run for 24 months. That means the Xbox One S package will cost $648, while the Xbox One X bundle will set you back $912. None of this includes any bonus data or discounted data if you're an existing Telstra broadband customer, and when asked during an embargoed briefing last week, Telstra confirmed that the Xbox plans wouldn't be offered alongside any 5G bundles.
The key question looming over the head of both bundles, of course, is Project Scarlett. The next generation Xbox is due for release in the holidays next year, and when asked on upgrade paths, Telstra said any users under the plan could upgrade to the new Xbox at any time by buying out their plan.
That's hardly a cost-effective solution, particularly compared to the cost of Xbox One S and Xbox One X bundles not just today, but in two weeks when the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals start dropping. But a follow-up release implied that Xbox and Telstra would offer a more normal upgrade route for anyone who gets a console now and wants to upgrade next year:
Players can buyout their hardware at any time and upgrade to Project Scarlett once it’s available. We will have more news to share on additional upgrade options in Australia in early 2020.
Update: The official Xbox All Access page, which is live now, says users will be able to upgrade to Project Scarlett provided they have made "at least 12 payments on your original Xbox All Access contract", and that you sign up for a new 24-month deal with Project Scarlett:
Special Holiday Upgrade Offer: Upgrading to Project Scarlett is subject to its release and availability at the time you upgrade. Upgrade requires at least 12 payments on your original Xbox All Access contract, and purchase of a new 24-month Xbox All Access contract for Project Scarlett, expected Holiday 2020. Offer valid for original purchase of Xbox One X with Xbox All Access through Dec 31, 2019; not available with Xbox One S. New contract, terms, and pricing apply. Requires return of console in good condition. Project Scarlett is subject to FCC rules and will comply with the appropriate FCC rules when available. See product and upgrade terms at Xbox.com/XboxAllAccessTerms.
Interestingly, Telstra's Michael Ackland confirmed at the briefing that the telco would offer an "optimised" broadband offering for gamers from next year. The product would be available for fixed broadband users "that will help optimise [the] gaming experience," Ackland said, with the product using a combination of software and infrastructural changes to prioritise gaming traffic.
"This means improving online latency and prioritising gaming traffic in the home to help reduce lag and latency spikes," Telstra said in a release. Telstra declined to reveal anything more about the gamer-focused offering, only adding that details about the new product would be revealed in 2020.
As for Xbox, the hardware subscription model is a clear window into how the company plans to market the next Xbox. While the phone plan-esque model will be available only in three countries from today, the zero upfront cost is likely to appeal to gamers looking to quickly upgrade to Project Scarlett upon release — much the same way it already does for people looking to upgrade from one plan to another.
And while Telstra might have exclusivity on subscriptions for Xboxes now, they're not the only telco that wants to grow their share of the gamer demographic — and there's more than one console to go around in 2020. But for Telstra, it's not the only exclusive partnership they'll be exploring, as per this line in their release.
Telstra’s entry into the gaming category is the beginning of a longer-term strategy that will bring gaming to the mass market through exclusive partnerships, backed by the country’s best network.
What other partnerships could Telstra be talking about? Google Stadia, perhaps?