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How Microsoft Raised the Price of Next-Gen Hardware with Xbox All Access, and Made Us Like It
posted on: Friday, September 11, 2020

Well, the cat is finally out of the bag over at Microsoft. This week we finally received confirmation from Microsoft that the Xbox Series S is real and it will be launching alongside the Xbox Series X this November. With the Series S reveal we also received pricing for both Microsoft consoles; the Xbox Series S will launch at $299 and the Series X will come in at $499. While I think there are a lot of interesting conversations to have around the split hardware launch and what that means from a game development perspective today I actually just want to talk about price, specifically about what Microsoft is doing with their Xbox All Access program to actually raise the price of these machines and possibly put the hurt on Sony.

Xbox All Access

Xbox All Access is a Microsoft payment program that bundles Xbox Series S or X hardware with Microsoft's Game Pass Ultimate service into a single monthly payment that ends up feeling very similar to a smartphone payment plan. For $0 down and $25 a month over 24 months you can get a brand new Xbox Series S and access to all of Microsoft's current and upcoming games through Game Pass. If you want to bump up to the big dog Xbox Series X the monthly payment only jumps by $10, so for $35 each month for 2 years you have the latest and greatest gaming machine from Microsoft. It really feels like a fantastic deal, and there have been numerous articles written already that break down the price of the Xbox hardware and 24 months of Game Pass Ultimate to show that you are basically paying no additional money for the hardware if you use Xbox All Access vs buying the hardware upfront, but I'm not sure that is the case.

Breaking Down the Costs of Xbox All Access

Let's crunch some numbers to show what I think is happening with Xbox All Access. First we will do the calculation that everyone else on the Internet has been doing and look at Xbox All Access compared to purchasing the hardware outright and then subscribing to Game Pass Ultimate for $15 a month.

Xbox Hardware + $15 Game Pass vs Xbox All Access

Xbox Hardware + $15 Game Pass vs Xbox All Access
SKU Price 24 Months Game Pass at $15 Total
 Xbox Series S  $299  $360  $659
 Xbox Series X  $499  $360  $859
 Series S (All Access)  $600  Included  $600
 Series X (All Access)  $840  Included  $840

As you can see in the table, and as countless people have pointed out online, it's actually CHEAPER to buy an Xbox with All Access than it is to purchase the hardware and Game Pass separately. From a consumer perspective it is a good value assuming you had planned to purchase Game Pass anyway, but there is something else to think about here. While the standard price of Game Pass Ultimate is $15 it can be purchased for much less during various sales throughout the year. In fact you can signup for Game Pass Ultimate right now for just $1, not the $15 per month that is being show in the calculation.

Xbox All Access as a Trojan Horse

Looking at these cost breakdowns over the last couple days made me realize that the actual cost to Microsoft to add a subscriber to Game Pass Ultimate is basically nothing. The game studios have already been purchased and funded, the games are already being made, and Microsoft has already sunk the cost of Game Pass whether you sign up for it or not. From that perspective signing up a new Game Pass customer at ANY PRICE is a win for Microsoft, especially since if you are a Game Pass customer for 24 months, as required by Xbox All Access, you are likely to continue to subscription after the payment plan ends, since your monthly payment would then drop from $25 or $35 dollars down to only $15. Once you realize that the 'cost' of Game Pass is completely variable to Microsoft then the genius of what they are doing with Xbox All Access becomes clear. Let's run the price comparison again but this time we will only contribute $1 per month for Game Pass and assign the rest of the cost to the hardware.

Xbox Hardware + $1 Game Pass vs Xbox All Access

Xbox Hardware + $1 Game Pass vs Xbox All Access
SKU Price 24 Months Game Pass at $1 Total
 Xbox Series S  $299  $24  $323
 Xbox Series X  $499  $24  $523
 Series S (All Access)  $576  $24  $600
 Series X (All Access)  $816  $24  $840

With Xbox All Access Microsoft has actually raised the price of their next-gen console beyond what has ever been possible in the past. No one would be singing the praises of the Xbox Series S at a price of $576! And the number of people who would buy an Xbox Series X for over $800 could probably be counted on my hands; however, by bundling the hardware with a software service and stretching it out over 2 years it feels like a great deal.

But, this isn't even the most genius move that Microsoft has made here. Xbox All Access not only allows Microsoft to convince consumers they are getting a great deal with the payment plan, I believe it also allows them to sell their hardware at a larger loss than they otherwise would have been able to stomach, through the magic of the Average Selling Price.

Average Selling Price as a Weapon against Sony

Average Selling Price (ASP) is a financial measure that companies use to determine what their average revenue is from each product sold by averaging out the cost across all the products sold in the market. So if you sell 100 units of a tablet computer at its retail price of $500 but then sell 200 units at a sale price of $350 then the average selling price for that product is $400.

What I believe Microsoft is trying to do with Xbox All Access is raise the Average Selling Price of the new Xbox consoles beyond the standard retail price to help offset the high build costs and to put pricing pressure on Sony from the very beginning of the console generation. So what looks like a great deal to consumers, because we are conditioned to buy products on monthly payments instead of looking at the actual price, is actually a masterful shakeup to the console business that could have a huge impact on how game systems are sold from now on.

Lets look at a couple more tables to see how this could play out, one for the Xbox Series S and another for the Series X. In these tables I am going to look at what the average selling price of the hardware would be depending on what percentage of players purchase their systems with Xbox All Access vs up-front retail price. Also, we are going to use the All Access hardware price assuming that the cost for Game Pass Ultimate is $1.

Xbox Series S Average Selling Price Breakdown

Xbox Series S Average Selling Price Breakdown
Retail % Retail Price All Access % All Access HW Price ASP
 90  $299 10  $576  $326.70

 $299 25
 $576  $368.25
 50  $299
50  $576  $437.50
 25  $299
75  $576  $506.75

As you can see from the table, even if only 10% of customers choose to purchase an Xbox Series S with Xbox All Access Microsoft's Average Selling Price increases by almost 10% over the retail price. For every percentage point of the user base that Microsoft can convince to purchase with Xbox All Access they will make more money from their hardware in aggregate. Now let's look at how high they can push the ASP of the Series X

Xbox Series X Average Selling Price Breakdown

Xbox Series X Purchase Style Breakdown
Retail % Retail Price All Access % All Access HW Price ASP
 90  $499 10  $816  $530.70

 $499 25
 $816  $578.25
 50  $499
50  $816  $657.50
 25  $499
75  $816  $736.75

Because, Math, the breakdown follows the same trajectory with the Series X. What I find incredible here is that if Microsoft can get around 35% of their Xbox Series X customers to purchase on All Access their Average Selling Price for ALL Series X systems will be more than $600!

As an offensive tactic this is brilliant because it will force Sony into a difficult decision, do they try to match prices with Microsoft and lose a LOT of money on their hardware, or do they price closer to break even and let Microsoft undercut them on price for the entire generation? At this point we still don't know what Sony plans to do as they have not announced any pricing for their consoles. It is possible that Sony could see this tactic coming from Microsoft and has something similar planned, or they could have always planned to sit somewhere in the middle of this $299 - $499 price point we just don't know. Hopefully we will get more information from Sony soon and that will give us an idea if this All Access plan has caused them problems.

Thank you for reading, let us know what you think on Twitter @F5Games and have a great weekend.

Weekly Game News Update for Aug 21 - Cyberpunk Updates, Massive Xbox News, and a collection of Switch Indie Announcements
posted on: Friday, August 21, 2020

It has actually been a couple weeks since out last update, so there is a ton to cover. Microsoft has continued to make this one of the strangest console launches in history and there have been a lot of game updates and reveals in the last couple weeks. Grab a drink and let's get going.

Microsoft's Confusing Console Launch

It has been a very eventful couple of weeks for Microsoft in regards to the Xbox Series X launch. After the lackluster reveal of Halo Infinite there were grumblings that the game could be delayed beyond this year and miss the Series X launch. The question that inevitably followed that argument was, 'what game is going to sell the new console for Microsoft?' Well, I guess we will get to find out this November. In the last couple weeks Microsoft has announced that the Xbox Series X will be released in November 2020 and that Halo Infinite will not be there, in fact, it has been delayed until an unspecified date in 2021.

Not long after the delay announcement reports appeared online of a leaked Xbox Series X controller in it's retail packaging that details the controller will work on the Xbox Series X and Series S! The Series S is the much rumored 'cheaper next-gen Xbox' that is expected to launch alongside the Series X this fall. So far, Microsoft has said nothing publicly about the Series S but at this point it appears to be the worst kept secret in gaming.

And finally, while you won't be playing Halo Infinite on your new Xbox Series X (or S) this Christmas you will be getting an updated Dashboard UI, which Microsoft displayed for the first time in a video this week. You can check out the video below and get acquainted with the new interface to hold you over until you can get your hands on it this November.

Sony is still playing it close to the vest

While we have learned a lot of Xbox series X info, some intentionally and some not, Sony has continued to kept its new console under wraps. We are still unsure of the launch lineup, unsure of the price, and unsure of the launch date ( although my money is on November 19th ). What we did get this week is a first look at an ad for the PS5, focusing not on games but on the new interactive elements of its controller. Check out the ad below and decide if Haptic Feedback, Active Triggers and 3D Audio are going to be enough for you to jump into the next-gen with Sony this year.

Nintendo Gives Indies Some Love

Not to be left out of the conversation, Nintendo debuted an Indie World Direct video this week that highlighted several upcoming games from all over the world. You can check out the video below for all the details on ports to the Switch of Hades, Subnautica, Torchlight 3, Manifold Garden, and the Apple Arcade darling Grindstone. There are also several new game announcements that run the gambit of game genres and themes. It was a really interesting lineup of games and while we all love indie games, I think it is beyond time for Nintendo to give us an update on their first party lineup for the rest of the year. There is literally nothing other than Pikmin 3 Deluxe on the slate from Nintendo for the Holiday season, and I can't understand why they are keeping everything so quiet.
Check out the Indie World Direct below, I'm sure you will find a game or two that will grab your interest.

Cyberpunk 2077 Steals the Show Again

The last big announcement for this week was the second Episode of CD Projekt Red's Night City Wire. In another meaty video the developers or Cyberpunk showed off the different 'life paths' you can choose at the start of your adventure and how they will change the experience throughout the game. In the video below you will get a look at the three Life Paths available, Nomad, Corpo, and Street Kid as well as a rundown of the different styles of weapons on offer.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be 'the game' of the second half of 2020 and I can't wait to get my hands on it. At this point I am assuming that the game will launch alongside the PS5 and Xbox Series S this November and will have some level of next-gen enhancements to make it a de-facto Launch title for Next-gen. Hopefully we will get some info on that in an upcoming episode of Night City Wire.

F5 News - Update for Blackjack Masters and New Game Development

Here at F5 we recently released the Seasonal Tournaments update for Blackjack Masters and it has been great to see players from all over the world compete with each other to see who is the best Blackjack player. We are now working on a new update that will introduce prize chests for winning tournaments as well as smaller chests for completing all of the available daily missions. Hopefully that will be ready in the next week or two.
We have also begun work on an entirely new title that we are very excited about. We are getting back to our roots as a studio and working on a new action RPG! This is a game that I have wanted to dive into for several years now and it has been great to start making things happen on this project. It is still very early but we have a clear design in mind and are working on the technology so hopefully we will be able to start sharing more info with you in the coming months.

Thanks for reading! If there is anything that you would like us to cover in our weekly round-ups let us know on our Twitter account and we'll try to make it happen. Have a great weekend.

Weekly Games Update for Aug 7th - Doom Eternal Upgrade, Playstation Announcements, and Diablo Immortal Info
posted on: Friday, August 07, 2020

Wow, after a fairly quiet week last time this week has been packed full of game announcements, updates, and news. Buckle up, we're going for a ride!

Doom Eternal Gets a a Next-Gen Upgrade and an Expansion!

Doom Eternal has been one of my favorite games this year so I was excited to see a couple great news items this week for the game. First, it was announced that Doom Eternal and The Elder Scrolls Online will each get a release for Next-Gen consoles. In addition to that, if you already own the PS4 or Xbox One version of either game you will get the Next-Gen version as a free upgrade! I really appreciate all of the devs that are supporting their players with these free upgrades.

This morning we also received a teaser for the first campaign expansion to Doom Eternal, 'The Ancient Gods'. While this is just a short tease for the full trailer coming on August 27th it is great to see that the Doom Eternal experience is going to continue sooner rather than later.

Halo Infinite Multiplayer Confirmed as Free-to-Play

In our update last week we reported on a rumor that Halo Infinite's multiplayer would be available separate from the main game as a free-to-play download. This week we received confirmation from Microsoft that this will be the case. In addition to the multiplayer being free-to-play Microsoft also confirmed that the game will run at 120 FPS on the Xbox Series X.

Hopefully we will continue to hear more good things about the game leading up to launch.

Sony State of Play - Crash Bandicoot 4 and Godfall Details

Sony held a 'State of Play' livestream this week with details on several PS4 games coming out this year as well as a sprinkling of details on games for the PS5. For me the two standouts were the in-depth looks at Crash Bandicoot 4 which opened the stream and then the walkthrough of combat in the PS5 exclusive GodFall which ended the stream. If you are looking forward to the PS5 like I am, I suggest you give this stream a look.

Blizzard shows off new Diablo Immortal Gameplay

This week also delivered a new look at Diablo Immortal gameplay via a trailer that Blizzard debuted at the ChianJoy conference. Diablo Immortal is a brand new game in the Diablo series built from the ground up for mobile. It was originally announced all the way back in 2018 but we have seen very little of it since then as the Western fan reaction was pretty lousy. Personally, I am really looking forward to the game and I hope they can bring the fun of raiding crypts and dungeons with your friends to mobile.

The new trailer gives us a look at the different character classes that will be available, many coming directly from Diablo III. It also shows off several different locations and boss battles that all look fantastic.

Check out the trailer below and let me know what you think on Twitter. Hopefully we will be able to get our hands on this before the year is out.

Here at F5 we are putting the finishing touches on our next update for Blackjack Masters that introduces weekly tournaments where you can compete with all of our worldwide players to see who is truly a Blackjack Master. If you are not already a player please check out the game by tapping on the image below and if you are a player, Thank You!

Play Blackjack anytime for free with Blackjack Masters! Learn Card Counting and Blackjack Strategy even compete with your friends!

As always, thank you for reading the roundup this week. I hope you have a great weekend.

Weekly Games Update for July 31 - Halo Infinite F2P, Modern Warfare 2 for PS Plus, and Eiyuden Chronicle gets Kickstarted.
posted on: Friday, July 31, 2020

Welcome back for another gaming news roundup! This has been a fairly quiet week but we have a few things worth your time. Let's check them out.

Modern Warfare 2 Remastered and Fall Guys Available for PS Plus Subscribers in August

The free games lineup for PS Plus subscribers in August is pretty great! Starting this week you can grab the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered campaign and you will also be able to grab Fall Guys when it launches next week on August 4th. There have been several preview articles this week claiming that Fall Guys is going to be 'the next big game' so it sounds like it is definitely something you will want to check out.
Check out the video below from Playstation Access to get all the details on these great games.

Suikoden Followup Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes Funded on Kickstarter in 2 hours

If you are a fan of Japanese RPGs then you will probably be interested in the newly announced game Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. Billed as a spiritual successor to the classic PS1 game Suikoden, Eiyuden Chronicle aims to be a large traditional JRPG with a massive cast of characters to recruit to your side. It launched a Kickstarter this week and was funded in less than 2 hours and continues to pull in donations even as we speak with more than 2 Millions dollars pledged so far!. Check out the Kickstarter trailer below and if this is something you're interested in you can get more details on the Kickstarter at this link.

Halo Infinite Multiplayer Going Free 2 Play?

Reports surfaced this morning that Halo Infinite's multiplayer may launch as a Free to Play mode distinct from the campaign. This would be a very interesting move from Microsoft and it could give them a chance of carving out a place in the highly competitive landscape alongside Fortnite, COD:Warzone, and Apex Legends. I have always been a fan of Halo Multiplayer and I'm excited to see what 343 has in store for us with Infinite. Hopefully we will all get to give it a shot later this year.

Blackjack Masters v1.1.5 released for all platforms

Here at F5 Games we have been hard at work improving our game Blackjack Masters and working on some new projects that we hope to launch later this year! This week we released v1.1.5 of Blackjack Masters to the Apple, Google, and Amazon App stores so no matter where you play you can grab the latest version of the game and play some cards! Please let us know what you think and please consider giving us a review on your App store, it really helps us.

Play Blackjack anytime for free with Blackjack Masters! Learn Card Counting and Blackjack Strategy even compete with your friends!

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend.

Weekly Games Update July 24 - Crysis Launches, Xbox Games Showcase, and Star Wars Squadrons Looks Legit.
posted on: Friday, July 24, 2020

This week saw one big release and some major hype for games coming this Christmas season. Let's step through it all shall we?

Crysis for Switch is a real thing you can play right now!

Yes, it has actually happened, Crysis has launched for Nintendo Switch and, from all accounts, it's actually pretty great. Check out this awesome Digital Foundry video to see an in-depth look at how Crysis looks on the Switch in comparison to both the original PC version and the version that released for last-gen consoles. It definitely looks like a miracle port and I still can't believe that we can run Crysis on a portable gaming machine.

Star Wars Squadrons Previews Raise the Hype Level to 11

When Star Wars Squadrons was announced earlier this year I was instantly excited. As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the classic PC space sims Wing Commander, X-Wing, and Tie Fighter and Squadrons looked like it may be trying to bring that style of gameplay back in a beautiful new package. But, this is EA we're talking about, so there was also the chance that the game would have a stripped down tutorial parading as a single-player campaign and then a few multiplayer modes tacked on. I tried not to get my hopes up too high.

Thankfully, it appears Star Wars Squadrons may be 'the real deal'! Several previews of the game hit this week and across the board they sound like Squadrons has brought them back to the days of classic space combat. The game appears to be highly skill based with advanced flight maneuvers, power management, and tough capital ship attacks. I can't wait to get my hands on this thing when it launches on October 2nd.

If you want more detail on Squadrons check out these previews from Eurogamer and The Verge.

Mario Kart Tour Landscape Update!

While it may not be for everyone Mario Kart Tour has been a success for Nintendo on iOS and Android. Nintendo has continued to update the game, bringing in new characters, karts, and tracks since launch. The latest update, which went live this week, brings a much requested feature to the game, the ability to play in Landscape Mode! Check out the trailer below for a look at the new feature, which makes this feel just that much more like the Mario Kart of old.

Microsoft Xbox Games Showcase and the Game Pass Experiment

Microsoft held an Xbox Games Showcase yesterday to show off their slate of upcoming games for the Xbox Series X launch later this year. While many games were shown, there were very few that displayed actual gameplay, in fact most of the reveals were nothing more than CGI renders or title announcements. The general consensus is that Microsoft hasn't done enough to sell players on purchasing an Xbox Series X this Christmas, and I have to agree. What I find interesting is that Microsoft may not be making the case, because they don't really care if people buy the Series X this Christmas, they just want people to sign for Game Pass.

Microsoft made it very clear that every game shown yesterday would be available on their Game Pass subscription service the day it was launched. That means Halo, Forza, Fable, and the other dozen Microsoft Game Studios games shown off can be secured with a $10 a month subscription instead of by plopping down $60 for each game individually. It is a really interesting move from Microsoft, by focusing their sales efforts on the subscription they are minimizing their new hardware launch and trying to push players to Game Pass which allows you to play on an Xbox One, PC, or even Mobile with their xCloud streaming service.

I get the feeling that Microsoft as a corporation has decided that they can't beat Sony and Nintendo in the classic 'Console War' fight and they are choosing to move the battlefield to a new location, services. It could be a very smart move on their part but we will just have to wait and see how it plays out for them. I imagine that if this push to services doesn't take off like they hope Microsoft will exit the hardware business and transition into being a software publisher only, much like Sega did in the 2000s.

In the meantime we do have a new Halo game to play this year. So check out the gameplay from that below and let the nostalgia wash over you. If you are interested in reading about the other games announced yesterday this article at Eurogamer has you covered.

Here at F5 Games we are working on the next update to Blackjack Masters which will add weekly tournaments! These tournaments will make it easy to compete with other players and your friends to see who is a real Blackjack Master. If you haven't downloaded the game yet you can play for free on iOS and Android.

Play Blackjack anytime for free with Blackjack Masters! Learn Card Counting and Blackjack Strategy even compete with your friends!

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend.

Blackjack Masters
Weekly Game News Roundup - Jul 17
posted on: Saturday, July 18, 2020

It has been another great week for games! We have a couple hype videos and the launch of two major games from first party publishers! Let's dive in.

Ghost of Tsushima Launch

The latest Sucker Punch Production, Ghost of Tsushima, launched today to mostly positive reviews. Nearly everyone has praised it for fantastic visuals, in-depth combat, great atmosphere and story. Reviewers that found fault with the game tend to all focus on the overdone 'open world' gameplay loop that we have seen in so many games this generation. It looks like a great send-off for the PS4 as this is the last first-party game that will be released for the system. Congratulations to Sucker Punch on the launch, I can't wait to give it a try.

Crysis Remastered for Switch - Launching on July 23rd

Can the Switch run Crysis? Apparently it can, and it has awesome features like dynamic lighting, destructible environments, maximum explosions, and sharks. While I know that this will be the worst looking version of Crysis Remastered I still want to pick up it just to see what it looks like to run Crysis on Nintendo's portable wonder-machine. I also can't wait for Digital Foundry to get their hands on this thing. Check out the trailer below and get your body, and your Switch, ready for launch on July 23rd.

No Man's Sky Desolation Update Coming Soon

Talk about a game that just keeps going and going, No Man's Sky just will not quit. After it's difficult initial launch it has continued to improve with large game changing updates coming at regular intervals. The next update on the list is called Desolation and among a ton of bug fixes and other enhancements it adds a new randomized mission type that has you board derelict space freighters that may, or may not, have scary face-hugging aliens on board! Check out the trailer below for a taste of that and if you want more details on the update check out this article on Polygon.

Play Blackjack anytime for free with Blackjack Masters! Learn Card Counting and Blackjack Strategy even compete with your friends!

Paper Mario: The Origami King Launch

The last Nintendo game for Switch launches today, at least the last one we know about. Paper Mario: The Origami King launched today to mostly positive reviews and it looks adorable. Retaining the off-beat humor that the series is known for but with an all new puzzle based combat this looks like another great game for our favorite plumber and friends.
Check out the trailer below and send me your impressions on Twitter if you give it a try.

Game Maker's Toolkit: Birth of the Japanese RPG

I am a big fan of the Game Maker's Toolkit channel on YouTube and their recent video about the origins of Japanese RPGs was great. If you are an RPG fan like me I'm sure you will find a lot to love about this video. Tracing the origins of classic series like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy back to some of the original PC RPGs shows that while we may still make a distinction between Eastern and Western RPGs, they all started in the same place. Check out the video below and make sure to check out the GMTK channel on Youtube.

Have a great weekend everyone!

F5 Games is an independent game developer in Tulsa Oklahoma. We strive to create the very best in tablet and mobile games.