Is The Xbox All Access Subscription The Future Of Gaming?

Xbox have finally done it. After the seeming frivolity of Xbox Game Pass, and the shift earlier this year to include every first party game Microsoft have on their release schedule, it was clear that Microsoft were eyeing up subscription services as the future. With the announcement of Xbox All Access – one relatively low monthly payment that includes an Xbox console, Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass – they’ve set a precedent for what could well be the future of gaming. If it works.

People aren’t exactly unfamiliar with having subscriptions. Many of us have got Spotify accounts and Netflix subscriptions, maybe with got Amazon Prime or NowTV on top. The way we access content has utterly changed in recent years, and it’s a model that people have merrily jumped on board with. Give us enough stuff to watch for a set amount that we don’t really have to think too hard about and everybody’s vaguely happy. It doesn’t even have to be the greatest stuff in the world – have you seen Bright? – but if it’s just there then we can’t be too offended by it because we haven’t directly paid for it. Oh, except we have directly paid for it.

When Xbox Game Pass came out it was a pleasingly familiar, if safe, concept. Pay your money each month and get access to a library of games that cycle in and out of the service, and you can get a discount on any games you want to keep if they get taken off the roster. It wasn’t quite the all-conquering idea some might have hoped for, but that was to come. Microsoft added in one hell of a sweetener when they brought in access to every first party release, on launch day, as part of the subscription. In essence, for £8.99 a month players were able to get their hands on Sea of Thieves and then State of Decay 2 in quick succession, both of which are definitely better than Bright.

So All Access is the next step, albeit one that’s only being taken in the US to start with. An Xbox One S with Live and Game Pass is $21.99 a month, while a One X bumps the price to $34.99, spread across twenty four months, at the end of which you own the machine. It’s 0% interest, and while I’m starting to sound like an infomercial, it’s a great deal, especially if you simply can’t stump up the cash all at once for a new console. It’s the same business model that keep so many people tied in with mobile phone contracts and a new phone every other year.

Let’s face it, this isn’t for most major game fans. Most serious gamers have likely had a PS4, an Xbox One, or even both for years, and been enjoying all those amazing games to boot. In the here and now this is perfect as a jumping-on point for casual fans who’ve been happily getting by with Xbox 360s or PS3s, or as a more financially viable way to grab a One S or make the jump to the sublime Xbox One X.

Alongside that new tech you’re getting an instant gaming library to wallow in, including big hitters like Gears 4, Halo 5, The Master Chief Collection, Quantum Break and plenty more. The fact you get Forza Horizon 4 in a couple of months as part of the deal should give you even more to think about. Playing that on an Xbox One X in 4K with HDR will be great, right?

It’s a brilliant move by MS to get people on board with their ecosystem, primed for the next generation. For lapsed 360 owners, many of whom jumped ship to PlayStation 4 this generation, it might tempt them back into the fold with a system full of games alongside access to a bunch of their old games through backward compatibility.

It’s a limited offer to begin with, and currently only available in the US. Microsoft are definitely dipping their toe in the water here, not just presumably to see the uptake, but also to see if they can handle the infrastructure required to do so. Given the size of the company there seems little reason why it won’t work, or that they couldn’t cope with it, but perhaps this is less about this generation and more about the next – many people expect the next gen to start in 2020, after all.

If Microsoft were to unleash whatever their next console is upon the public, not just as a whopping single payment, but as something that nearly anyone could jump onboard with, it feels as though the console war impetus could swing back towards greener pastures. The company know all too well that they lost this generation before it even started thanks to an array of anti-consumer plans, but revolutionising the way people can access their consoles shows that this is a Microsoft that are willing to learn, and willing to try more or less anything in order to find their way back in.

I hope it does work. I can see myself at least being tempted to hand over a monthly subscription to Xbox for a couple of years rather than shell out close to half a grand all at once, and there are people for whom a new console would become affordable where it simply wouldn’t be under the traditional business model. There’s ways to do this yourself of course, but few of them are interest free, and presumably being part of whatever Microsoft’s plans for its consoles is going to have some kind of advantage, even if it’s just that you don’t have to think too hard about where those payments are going.

The question will be whether people are willing to shift across to this new approach, but these days if there’s a way to make things simpler and easier people are often willing to go for it without too much thought. It’ll be interesting to see whether PlayStation begin eyeing something similar up as there’s a real opportunity here to bring people in who’ve otherwise been missing out. While that’s true today, if both companies are looking for a leg-up on the next generation then Xbox might have been the first to crack it.

Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.


  1. So for very slightly less than the normal price, people who can’t afford the One X can buy one. With 0% interest, unless you miss any payments in which case it’s 20 to 30% interest, presumably on the whole lot. And by the time the 24 months is up, you’ve probably paid more than it would have cost if you’d waited until you could actually afford it.

    It’s not a subscription service, or the future of gaming. It’s someone doing a promotional interest free credit deal for MS. And when people end up paying hundreds more for it because they missed a payment, MS can say “it’s nothing to do with us, someone else is handling the credit payments”.

    • So because someone can’t be bothered to meet a monthly payment they’ve agreed to, Microsoft is what exactly? Silly, predatory, irresponsible.

      Or maybe this subscription deal is a great oppurtunity for someone who can meet the monthly payments, and pass the credit checks that any phone company use when they set up a deal. Or maybe the phone companies are all predatory as well?

      Or maybe you’re just being silly about whole thing? Hmm, yeah.

      • Interesting how I didn’t actually claim any of those things but you decided I was suggesting it was “silly, predatory, irresponsible” anyway.

        Come to think of it, you might be right there. I was just thinking it was possibly a bit unwise to buy a console you can’t afford, but maybe there really is something dodgy about MS (or the company offering the credit) doing it?

      • Your tone definitely leant toward the accusatorial in text, if not necessarily in intent.

        But importantly, there’s nothing wrong with the option that Microsoft have arranged here (and yes, it’s always going to be a third party creditor). The onus is on the purchaser to ensure that they can afford it in the long term, but just like phone contracts plop the latest phone in people’s hands even if they don’t have £600-1000 to commit right away, this can help more people get a games console.

        That in itself could, as Dom writes, give Microsoft the edge at the start of the next generation when the value of the hardware is at its highest.

      • Yeahhh, no, I’m still sticking with the ‘you’re silly’ conclusion.

        Though it’s amusing too.

        You don’t have any phones on contract or items on credit do you? That would make a good laugh 😂😂😂

      • Phone companies are most definitely predatory. In the UK they’re practically giving them away compared to what I deal with in the US.

      • Assuming they do this for the Next Xbox that is, which I doubt, they need to make all the monies at a new hardware launch.

      • If you want to compare it to phones, it’s not a great deal is it? If it works out as near enough the full price for the One X and the 2 subscriptions, while phones tend to be a bit of a better deal, depending on the phone. Look at how much you’re paying a month for a phone, subtract how much you’d be paying for a SIM only deal, and it’s likely you’re getting the phone for a discount.

        Plus a phone is kind of almost essential these days, unlike an XBox.

        There’s also a worry that if it became a common way of owning a console, it could start to push the prices up. They struggled at £400+, but split it up into easy monthly payments, and nobody will notice an extra fiver a month. Until you realise your £400 console now costs more than £500 over the 2 years.

        And what effect will pushing the Game Pass thing so heavily have? If people are paying so much a month and get loads of games included, will games that aren’t included struggle? Big AAA titles won’t, but the smaller ones might.

        I think it’s a bit of a worrying trend and hopefully doesn’t end up being more than a limited offer every so often. And I doubt it’d give MS much of an advantage next generation. With Sony doing so well this time and BC being pretty much guaranteed for both consoles next gen, it might be all over before it’s even started. Even if MS have learned a valuable lesson from the disastrous XBone launch. And if it looks like it might help MS, Sony have got a couple of years to sort out a similar offering anyway.

        And I doubt either company could hide a £500+ price behind a phone-style subscription and get away with it.

      • @Tuffcub They will make the money at launch. The credit servicing company pay the full amount (less commission) to Microsoft within 30 days of the contract starting. The credit company take their cut and any interest they may accrue along the way.

    • Its not like you cant already buy an Xbox X/S or even a PS4 on a 0% interest deal at retailers is it! This is just Microsoft cutting out the middle man, besides they have sold Xbox 360 this way in the past (it failed to catch on.)

      • The middle man is still there, they’re just being promoted by MS for a limited time.

    • That was more or less what I got. It feels less subscription and more a finance offer.

    • You really are a Sony fanboy aren’t you?

  2. I wouldn’t be able to afford a next gen console (whatever that ends up being or whenever it comes into existence) outright. If Microsoft want my money – and others in a similar financial situation – then it does make a lot of sense to have an accessible price point that gets people playing – and paying – right away.

  3. If the console has a warranty at least as long as the contracted payment term then I think this is a cracking idea. Obviously depends on if they intro it into UK and at what price point but at the moment I’ve a Switch and PS4 but this could encourage a leap back to Xbox as well for me.

  4. Honestly, to me this all looks like a much more palatable version of what Microsoft originally tried with the Xbox One. Consumers won’t actually own the games, and Microsoft ultimately has control. It also effectively eliminates used game sales for the system (if universally adopted). I understand that people buy things on credit, but I think a console (or couch, or TV, or bed, etc.) is an unwise thing to go into debt over.

    One reason Netflix worked is because you get so much content for ten dollars a month, including entire TV shows. Most people don’t want to buy every episode of Futurama, but getting access to every episode is a good deal. $34.99 per month for some games is pretty steep. I also find it strange that someone would finance a One X – presumably they already have a decent 4K HDR TV that can make full use of it, but they don’t have money for the console? But could save up $35 per month? I guess I just underestimate people’s need for instant gratification.

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