Xbox Has Fired Their Best Shot

Xbox Has Fired Their Best Shot
Image: Microsoft

Imagine, if you will, that you’re shopping around for Christmas presents this year. Imagine that you’re in need of cheap, easy entertainment that won’t require leaving the house, and something that you know will stick around for a couple of years.

You see an ad, maybe a tweet, or maybe a message somewhere: hundreds of games, a new Xbox console, and two years of access to Game Pass games and, more importantly, titles like FIFA. Battlefield. Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Titanfall 2. Dragon Age.

Also, you can get it on a monthly plan that’s actually cheaper than buying the consoles (with Game Pass Ultimate, which you’d be paying for at some stage anyway) outright.

Xbox All Access, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S with Xbox game characters
Image: Xbox

Let’s just step back for a moment.

Xbox’s crowning achievement this generation — apart from practically coming back from one of the worst launches imaginable — has been to make itself relevant with services. The timing couldn’t be any more perfect. Even without the effect of the coronavirus, and the impact that’s had on gaming and gaming consumption, the world is now starting to revolve around low-cost-of-entry pricing: services like Netflix, buy now pay later offerings like Zip and Afterpay, free-to-play or freemium games.

For those who are in dire need of a low-cost entertainment option or Christmas gift, $33/month for the Xbox Series S — if you have an existing month-to-month Telstra broadband or phone deal, or you sign up for one — and hundreds of games is a hugely tempting proposition.

That’s especially true for the legions of Australian households who have Telstra as a default phone plan, and have turned to games this year because of forced isolation. We’re talking millions of Australians not plugged into the daily dramas of the gaming world, people who enjoy a bit of FIFA or something simply to pass the time. They enjoy games, but it’s not part of their identity or the main way they like to unwind.

But $33 a month upfront and not having to worry about buying games after it, and being told that you’ll also get brand new games with the console over the next two years?

That’s a retail pitch that Sony really needs to counter, and soon.

xbox series x
Image: Xbox

Let’s run those numbers for a bit.

In Australia, the Xbox Series S will set you back $499. It’s $749 if you want the beefier, fridge-like Xbox Series X. Neither console, at the time of writing, comes with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, so that’s something you’ll have to factor in (or transfer over if you’ve got an existing subscription).

The cost for Game Pass Ultimate, which enables online multiplayer on the Xbox as well as Microsoft’s library of games across PC and Xbox, can vary. Typically, it sells for $15.95 a month in Australia, although Microsoft frequently run $1/month promotions. Factoring that in, it means a year of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate would cost $224.30, while two years would cost $367.85. 

However, that’s assuming you buy it once and then maintain the subscription throughout. You could naturally get it for a few months, unsubscribe and then take advantage of the first $1/month offer (and I can’t see anything in the terms and conditions that would prevent users from doing this).

Most people wouldn’t bother with the hassle of doing that multiple times over two years, but it’s worth noting all the same.

Combined, an Xbox Series S with two years of Game Pass Ultimate will cost you $866.85. That’s not counting any extra fees, like one-off game purchases (titles like Cyberpunk 2077) or buying additional controllers. Existing Xbox One gamepads are compatible with the next-gen hardware, so the frugal among us won’t need that extra fee, although the more dedicated gamers will want to upgrade for the better haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.

Given that the Xbox All Access plan for the S costs $792 at a minimum, that’s a decent saving. It works out for the Xbox Series X too: the Telstra deal is $1104 over 24 months, or $1116.85 if you want to buy Xbox Series X and Game Pass Ultimate outright. 

Of course, what’s not factored in here is the cost of the Telstra plan versus what your current phone or broadband offering might be right now. That might be $10, $20 or $30 a month more than what you’re currently paying, or it might be nothing at all if you’re an existing customer. That’ll vary from customer to customer.

xbox series s
Image: Halo Infinite

But what really makes all of this work isn’t what’s happening to the Xbox Series X. The pricing, reasonable as it is and lower than expected, isn’t going to move anyone on the fence that was considering a PS5 or a new Nvidia GPU. But the battleground at the lower price points will be crucial. Offering a “next-gen” experience that doesn’t require an upgraded TV — a luxury many can’t or haven’t been able to afford this year, or for a while given Australia’s wage stagnation — is a strong move. It plays into Microsoft’s best strength, their services for which PlayStation has no rival offering right now.

Sony might be able to respond one day with PlayStation Now, but that’s still not available in Australia and we’ve heard no word about that changing any time soon. On top of that, Microsoft can point to all of the exclusives that they’ll eventually have in a couple of years, which come free with Game Pass. PlayStation Plus doesn’t offer that: you’re still paying for online access, and then paying full price on top for each Sony exclusive you want.

It all adds up.

I still think Sony is going to have the strongest hand out of the gate for the oldest and simplest reason: consoles need killer apps. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass has finally evolved into that, but not for the Xbox Series X.

Anyone who would consider a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X at launch wants more than a value offering. They want an experience, something that can’t be bought or achieved right now. Game Pass, even with the promise of new FIFA and Battlefield games isn’t quite a window into the future of gaming. It’s more a snapshot of the games industry mirroring the world around us.

But the world of 2020 is pretty shitty. Anyone even remotely considering spending $700-plus on a luxury entertainment item wants to escape all that, and PlayStation still has the upper hand on that front. Still, there’s plenty of people who would rightly baulk at spending that amount. And for those gamers, those households and people who have discovered or rekindled their love of gaming during months of isolation, Microsoft has made the best possible pitch they could.


  • How does gamepass work with the Series S only having a 0.5TB NVME type drive, how many AAA games can you fit on there?
    Does anyone know what the game sizes are for the new generation?

    • I can fill a 1TB drive with about 15 to 20 AAA games with current gen. Most games are usually in the range of 50 to 80 GB but there are a number of them that end up over 100 GB, especially once you factor in DLC. So you’re probably looking at getting maybe 3 to 4 full-fledged AAA games. (The OS and reserved space for memory and working will be the better part of around 80 GB or so) Most likely it will be more around 6 or 7 because not everything will be that expansive.

      That being said, there is a 1TB expansion slot available.

    • huh? do you need to have 10 games installed at once do you? im logging into more than say 2 or 3 in any given period.

      Funny fact about the Series S cpu, its actually more powerful than the PS5 cpu. Sure the PS5 has it beat on every other level, and so it should, but for the price and with that cpu its a bloody fantastic deal.

      • Yeah, I have 4 kids, 2 or 3 games, or even 4 or 5 isn’t going to cut it. 6 or 7 at a time would be okay, but it would mean deleting past that point, then going back to play an older game is a real turd.
        The main pain for me before I got an expansion drive was you play a game for a while, play another game, want to come back to the game that you had to delete and then you have the massive download to contend with.

        The expansion is a proprietary 1TB NVME, I can’t see that being overly affordable. I wonder if you can download the games to your PC or something, for faster re-installs.

        • Well obviously if you have 4 kids you’ll need the more expensive option, the X. More kids always equals more dollars

          Like i said, for the price its freakin sweet deal.

        • Not all games are 50Gb, plenty of games are much much less than that unless of course you only play AAA in which case you’re missing out a lot of amazing indie and AA games

        • You can still store next-gen only games on an external HDD, you just can’t play them. Which means you can transfer them back pretty quickly. All XBone and any backwards compatible 360 and original Xbox games can run off a HDD

      • Well. This all depends on what that the ps5 digital edition comes in at doesn’t it. Oh and its rips that Microsoft would enter a console into this market wityh the specs that the S is. Boy oh boy what a shit console for a proported next gen to be lower perfming than the old gen – crazy.

        When real price rumours hit a week or two ago, they had 499 USD and 299 USD for Xbox, and 499 USD and 399 USD for PS5.

        They got it right for xbox. What if its right for sony?

        We could possibly see, in AUD –

        – Ps5 Digital Ed – $599 diskless system, 850gb fast SSD, 10TF Graphics
        Up against
        – XBox Series S – $499 500gb slow ssd and a 4TF graphics card

        I dont know about others, but that deal would end the xbox at birth.

        • I think you may be coming from it with a ‘gamer’s’ mentality though. I have friends who have 2-3 kids but they aren’t gamers. For them, I would recommend the Xbox Series S over the PS5 digital and that’s PURELY for game pass, and microsoft knows this.

          You buy a PS5 at launch and have to get 2-3 more controllers plus 4-5 games and you’re looking at big bucks.. Remove $100 for the console and $300 for games and suddenly the difference in cost is night and day.

          Yes, you have to pay only what’s on Game Pass, but cmon, with around 300 games, there’s HEAPS there to keep them going, especially now they have every sports title covered (in one way or another) with EA Play.

          • The Xbox One controllers working out of the box is a big deal for families too. Not having to buy an extra 2-3 next-gen controllers? That’s a huge chunk of change.

          • Yeah I’d agree that I’m coming at it from a gamers perspective.

            However I do think you are coming at it from an ever narrower perspective of families that are buying their first EVER console this year, and don’t have a preference apart from price, and dont know/care about performance of the consoles. Is that a big market? And is that a market where you are also competing with the older consoles?

            I am only hoping they dont get a lot of sales (only of S, I hope they sell a lot of series X) because it just really sucks to see the bottom rung of next gen set so damn low, its going to limit a lot of what experiences cross gen can have, and potentially lead to second rate experiences for badly optimised games.

        • What? The Series S is more powerful than current gen. At this point the most powerful consoles will rank like this: XBone X, XSS, PS5 and then XSX.

          The XSS is essentially an XSX that performs the same except doesn’t do native 4k, has a bit less ram, no disk drive and half the storage…it’s gonna be fine lol

          Coming across as quite PS bias there

  • As a long term solution, unless its a Microsoft title thats going to remain there in perpetuity (maybe) Game Pass suffers the same issue as Netflix. They can remove titles from a whim, and you can no longer play them even if you’ve already downloaded them.

  • I’m guessing if you get the S, you are out of luck playing your 360 and XB1 games on disc via BC, or is there a way to do that?

  • It’s a good deal but there’s no way in hell I’ll ever give Telstra any more money, I especially don’t want them owning my shiny new console! I changed my broadband plan to TasmaNet and I’ll never be going back to Telstra, they have given me SO much grief over the years

    • This is why it’s disappointing that Telstra is the sole purveyor of All Access in Australia. Why not at least Optus and/or Vodaphone/TPG? Or even JB Hifi or Harvey Norman?

  • Sure it’s a good price. But way to rain on the next gen parade with that stinky GPU. Drop the price on the old gen if you want a viable cheaper option.

  • I know this is being pitched as a good idea ‘for the kids’, but as anyone with young kids knows about subscription services, this is a road to parental pain… Kids become absolutely obsessed with certain movies/shows/games and when subscription services remove these items, often without any real warning, we parents are left to deal with the results…. So, nah, personally I think I’ll just have my kids play with the multiple systems I have retained over the years and the physical games I bought and continue to buy.

  • “Sony is going to have the strongest hand out of the gate for the oldest and simplest reason: consoles need killer apps”

    But they have no launch exclusives either

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