Xbox Is Controlling The Value Conversation and PlayStation Is Making That Easy

September 20, 2020

Finally, the next generation is beginning. We have new consoles coming that are filled with fantastic new tech and games that look to give us amazing new experiences. It’s an exciting time to play games, one that I’ve been looking forward to for ages. At the same time, the world is in the grips of a global pandemic that is causing many people’s livelihoods to be destroyed and economies to slide. In a time when less people than ever can afford to be spending hundreds of dollars on consoles and games, one thing has become abundantly clear: price and value are more important than ever, and PlayStation is simply letting Xbox control that value conversation.

Even at the best of times, coming up with the hundreds of dollars needed to buy a console and games at launch can be a daunting thing. When so many people live paycheck to paycheck and daily living expenses keep going up, it’s hard for a lot of people to make that jump early on. Throw in recessions across the World, hundreds of thousands of jobs simply disappearing due to COVID-19 and more uncertainty than we’ve seen since the GFC, and getting in on this console generation is going to be a massive task for so many people. It’s easy to say, ‘Well maybe you just shouldn’t buy one’, and I’ve made it clear in the past that you shouldn’t buy console at launch, but there’s still a massive desire to get in while the going is hot. Being part of the zeitgeist of a new console generation has a massive pull, especially if your friends are there as well.

This is where Xbox has made massive strides in recent weeks and years. Game Pass has become a service filled with unprecedented value in the gaming space. We’ve had other services in the past that have tried to do the same thing, but none before has so successfully filled itself with massive third party releases, incredibly interesting indie experiences and every single upcoming first party release on launch. Spending the money required on a full retail release at launch can be daunting, especially when you’re potentially going in sight unseen, but spending a sixth of that to play over on hundred games for a month is a lower hurdle to clear, even if you can’t keep the games after that month is done. In a world where people are happy to binge watch a show and walk away from it, the Game Pass model makes more sense than ever.

This vision has continued into the way they’ve designed their consoles. The Xbox Series X is the premium model for those who have the cash to splash on the biggest and best there is. The Xbox Series S is a cut back version of that same console for those that are more budget conscious. Xbox are effectively saying, “If you want a big, powerful and expensive box, we’ve got you. Want a smaller, cheaper and weaker box, we’ve got you to.” It’s a massive shift from the days of pushing the Xbox 360 on people who didn’t want to deal with the original always online vision for the Xbox One. For people that want that big, bad box but don’t have hundreds available for the console and games at launch, Xbox has Xbox All Access. The 24 month plan comes with a console and Game Pass Ultimate, all for an overall cost that is lower than buying the console at launch and maintaining a 24 month subscription to Game Pass Ultimate (assuming you make all of your payments on time, of course).

Xbox are absolutely nailing the every-man value approach, with a proposition to hit almost every segment of the market, and at the end of the day PlayStation are letting them. As Xbox has come out and made their consoles and games more accessible than ever, PlayStation has done the exact opposite. While Xbox have touted Game Pass as a way to cheaply play hundred of games now and in the future, PlayStation have bumped up their game prices. In fact, they’ve increased their prices so much here in Australia, that their prices are now higher than the most expensive third-party games in markets for the first time I can remember. The $124.95 they’re asking us to pay for Demon’s Souls and Destruction Allstars is the equivalent of just over $91USD, a price that goes well beyond conversion from the $70USD + tax they’re asking for elsewhere. For the retail price of a copy of Destruction Allstars, I could buy eight months of Game Pass Ultimate. I could spend months playing a hundred different games, all for the cost of a single PlayStation 5 exclusive. The value proposition is pretty darn clear here.

Similarly, PlayStation haven’t gone up against the Xbox All Access value conversation at all. Instead, while they’ve matched the price of the Xbox Series X with the regular PS5 and gone between the Series X and Series S with the Digital Edition, they’ve ceded every low-cost entry point to Xbox. They’re happy to simply present an expensive console to you and leave it at that. It’s clear that PlayStation know their reputation for games can likely carry them through this generation with ease and so they’re happy to present themselves as the luxury option. It’s a higher cost, but you know what you’ll get, and if you can’t afford it they don’t really care. It feels like PlayStation now has a somewhat similar energy to when they were coming off the PS2 and entering the PS3 generation. They’ve got their reputation and they’ll bank on that to get them through, and this time they don’t have an insanely more expensive console to hamstring themselves with.

At the end of the day, Xbox has more ground to make up with consumers, and so they’re going hard with a market that PlayStation doesn’t want to engage with in the same way. They’re appealing to the more budget conscious and value hungry consumer. The ones that want to get into the console generation but cannot or will not spend copious amounts of money to do it. Xbox have nailed their value proposition and message and PlayStation is simply making it easy for them.