On Friday, Microsoft stunned Xbox Live Gold members by announcing a sharp price increase for the online gaming platform. However, after strong and immediate backlash amongst users, the company quickly did a U-turn and reversed the decision. Alongside that quick change of mind, Microsoft issued a groveling apology saying it “messed up”.
At first, Microsoft said Xbox Live Gold subscriptions will increase in price by $1 to $10.99 to customers paying monthly. For those on the three-month renewal plan, the company said the increase would be $5 to $29.99.
There were also price increases for the longer six-month plan. Specifically, a six-month subscription would cost $59.99, which is the same as Sony charges for its one-year PlayStation Plus subscription. That would mean Xbox Live Gold would cost the $120 for a full year membership.
“Periodically, we assess the value and pricing of our services to reflect changes in regional marketplaces and to continue to invest in the Xbox community; we’ll be making price adjustments for Xbox Live Gold in select markets,” the company said last week.
Perhaps the most controversial change was Microsoft says customers must have a subscription to get free multiplayer games. Currently, users must have a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to play online but can access free-to-play titles (such as Fortnite) without paying. Microsoft planned to change this allowance in an effort to push more people into the subscription.
That plan quickly backfired. Customers and commentators were aghast at Microsoft’s decision, noting the terrible timing considering the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are feeling an economic pinch and Microsoft’s Xbox division is currently thriving amid the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S.
Amid the growing backlash, Microsoft relented and said it would reverse its decision:
“We messed up today and you were right to let us know,” the company confirmed in an updated blog post.
“Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.”
This is the correct decision from Microsoft and it’s definitely good that the company listens to customers. However, it’s also more evidence that Microsoft struggles as a consumer brand and gauging what it’s customers want. Furthermore, the statement dresses up this decision as Microsoft understanding how important online gaming is to people during this time.
Clearly that’s not the case. If Microsoft understood the social thread online gaming provides during the pandemic, it would not have thought about increasing prices in the first place. Luckily for the company, this episode is now only a PR disaster and not the customer-losing decision it would have been.
Tip of the day:
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