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Are Console Subscriptions the Way of the Future for Gamers?

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With the next-generation Xbox, currently known as Project Scarlett, on the way, Microsoft has a clever plan to get you to put your foot halfway in the door. In October, the company unveiled Xbox All Access, a phone-style payment plan that lets you finance an Xbox One and trade up to a next-gen console at a later date.

This not only lets the company get more of its current consoles into our hands, but gives it a halfway guarantee of some sales in the future. It seems like a smart move for Microsoft, but what about us? Is this what the future of video games looks like?

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Do You Really Care If You Own Your Console?

Looking around the world in general, we tend to own less than we used to, at least physically. CDs were replaced by MP3s, which were then replaced by streaming. Similarly, eBooks replaced paper books, and you can read plenty of eBooks without owning them via Kindle Unlimited or even your local library. With services like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now, we don’t even own digital games as much as we used to.

With that in mind, extending that mentality to the console itself makes sense. It also has another benefit in that you avoid paying the lump sum of the cost of the console up front. Xbox All Access specifically is zero interest, so you’re not paying more.

Even better, Xbox All Access lets you trade in your Xbox One toward a new payment plan on Microsoft’s next-gen console. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s exactly how phone payment plans like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Plan work. In the case of Xbox All Access, Microsoft has promised major backward compatibility for its next console, even mores than what already exists on the Xbox One. Thanks to that compatibility, trading in your Xbox One doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t play the games you bought for it.

At least with Xbox All Access, you also get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which adds access to more than 100 games plus Xbox Live Gold service. For one price, you’re getting everything you need to play online, plus a library of games, which is hard to beat.

What If You Prefer to Own Your Game Systems?

Fortunately, if you prefer to stick the way you’ve been buying games and consoles, nobody is saying you have to stop. You can buy an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 just as you were already able to and all signs point toward this being the case for next-generation consoles as well.

At least for now, all this does is open doors for more people. If you’ve got good credit and don’t want to pay $250 to $500 for a console up front, this gives you an option. This is especially handy if you’ve already got a PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch and want to add a second or third console, as you get a fair number of games with it.

That said, if this model becomes popular, it could change things in the future. If most people didn’t buy phones on plans of some sort, we probably wouldn’t have as many phones retailing for upwards of $1,000. If these plans become similarly popular for game consoles, we could see base hardware prices go up even more.

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Is This Just the Beginning?

So far, no other major players (or minor ones, for that matter) have signaled any intentions to move in this direction. Sony and Nintendo and still working on the same model they’ve used and haven’t announced any plans to do otherwise. Even Google Stadia, which works differently than any other gaming system, still requires you to actually buy hardware.

That said, there’s no way to say we won’t see moves similar to Microsoft’s in the future. If nothing else, the rise in popularity of game streaming shows that not everyone wants or needs to physically own their games. If this extends to consoles as well, the future could look quite different.

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