Unsurprisingly, the pre-order launches for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S have been disastrous. There was a gap on the internet: those who agonized over bots and refresh buttons, and those who didn’t even care because it’s too expensive. And while this could be the launch of any console, it wasn’t, because we’re in a pandemic.
Both the high-end PS5 and Series X consoles cost $ 499.99, but only the latter currently has flexible payment options. GameStop is working on three different payment options, which include upfront and monthly payments. In addition to that, the return of Microsoft’s affordable All Access plan allows customers to choose a next-generation Xbox console of their choice bundled with Game Pass Ultimate for a 24-month monthly payment. This service allows members cross-platform access to a library of over 1
Why is this such a big deal? In a nutshell: COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to the world in every sense, and not everyone can advance the money for a next-generation console. With massive layoffs, reduced salaries, and tense economic conditions overall, the justification for losing half a thousand dollars at once isn’t just a source of anxiety – it can be downright terrifying. According to USA Today, an additional 833,000 Americans filed for unemployment in the last week of August alone, bringing the total number of people applying for some form of government subsidy to 29.6 million. Depending on your financial situation, a $ 500 expense could make or break your month. And that’s in addition to the fact that $ 70 games could become the standard price for PS5 and Series X games.
It’s both disappointing and unsurprising that Sony hasn’t announced a similar competitor to the Xbox All Access or GameStop monthly payment options. The company has historically been rigid with its pricing, even during clearance events. But with the ongoing pandemic and the rival launch of the X / S Series, Sony needs to step it up. Even with news of PS4 backward compatibility and the newly announced PlayStation Plus collection, that may not be enough for customers. More than ever, we are facing enormous pressure to be financially cautious.
It’s both disappointing and unsurprising that Sony hasn’t announced a similar competitor to the Xbox All Access or GameStop monthly payment options.
When it comes down to that, Microsoft’s unlimited access plan isn’t unlike getting a new phone. This has already happened in monthly payment models; mobile operators have been doing this for years with smartphones. The iPhone 11, for example, is currently listed for $ 699 on Apple’s website. That’s nearly $ 100 more than the PS5 or Xbox Series X, yet iPhones aren’t generally considered rare or inaccessible to the average person. Despite their high prices, high-end smartphones have become ubiquitous over the past decade. And that’s part of what paid installation plans can offer – more access to the latest technology for more people. For many, paying $ 25 a month for two years is far more feasible than losing $ 699 at one time. Games have always been expensive to keep up and it’s time for retailers to treat next-gen consoles with the same flexibility as other big, high-profile purchases.
Whether it’s PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold, consumers still have to pay a recurring monthly subscription if they want to play online. It makes sense to bundle this recurring charge with monthly payments on a new console, such as how it works with buying a new phone. A similar payment plan can lower the entry barrier to adopt a new, next-gen console for existing players and their subscriptions (and likely increase day one sales). If they are new, this simplifies the setup process. In the case of Microsoft’s All Access offering, Game Pass Ultimate is already included, so new players won’t have to worry about spending a fortune stocking up on a new library of games. Because even when you buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X / S, you’re not really done spending money – you need games.
This is a pivotal time for both companies and their new consoles. With winter just months away and the world bracing for a potential second wave of infections, more people will remain inside than ever. The days will be shorter, the seasonal affective disorder will return in full force, the cabin fever will take us all. What better way to unwind than to immerse yourself in gaming and streaming for hours? It should be crucial, therefore, for Sony to position itself as a viable competitor, not in terms of games, but in adapting to the needs and lifestyles of its consumers. The coronavirus pandemic has simply accelerated and exacerbated a problem that was already there: the disparity between the high initial costs of a next-generation console and consumer habits in the current socioeconomic landscape.
While both next-generation consoles are highly anticipated, the consumer advantage lies with Microsoft. It’s time for businesses and retailers to take a page from the X / S Series launch and adjust not only to life in quarantine, but also to financially leaner and more frugal times for all. If the way we live is different, shouldn’t the way we spend money change too?