Microsoft Hikes Xbox Live Subscription Fee

In what seems like a clever ruse to get gamers to quickly buy an extra year or two of Xbox Live Gold service — which offers online multiplayer as its main draw — Microsoft announced it’s raising the annual subscription fee from $50 to $60. One-month subscriptions rise from $8 to $10 and three-month hitches go from $20 to $25. The price changes go into effect Nov. 1.

Microsoft’s Larry Hryb rationalizes the price hike on his Major Nelson Blog:

Since launching Xbox LIVE in 2002 we have continually added more content and entertainment experiences for our members, while keeping the price the same. We’re confident that when the new pricing takes effect, an Xbox LIVE Gold membership will continue to offer the best value in the industry.

Translation: “We’re raising it because we can.”

Since 2002, Microsoft has added Netflix streaming, which is free on the Wii and PS3. It’s introduced Mii-like avatars, which it uses to peddle downloadable virtual clothing to play dress-up. And it’s delivered Facebook integration, something the PS3 also offers for free.

What price do you think would be high enough to get customers to stop renewing Xbox Live Gold?


Price change for Xbox LIVE Gold subscription
[Major Nelson via Joystiq]

Comments

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  1. agent 47 says:

    Me thinks that when my current sub runs out, I’ll probably just go offline with my system. I really only play Call of Duty online and to pay that much for one franchise is silly. If I really want my COD fix, I’ll just get it on PC.

    • JennQPublic says:

      I will happily continue to buy my yearly subscription for Call of Duty alone. I’m a one-franchise kind of girl. But I definitely get my money’s worth out of that one franchise! :-)

  2. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    I’ve never paid more than $30 for a year membership. Just wait until the subscription cards go on sale at places like buy.com or Amazon. They blow them out 2 or 3 times a year.

  3. jason in boston says:

    Stock up on the killer Newegg and Amazon year subscriptions? I will.

    If you are paying MSRP, you are doing it wrong.

    $60 / year would still be worth it to me for the service I get. Yes, could game on the computer but between not having to think about servers to Netflix – this service actually saves me money. $60 a year (to me) 1 less steak in the city or 1 round of drinks.

    • agent 47 says:

      Nobody is expecting to pay $60, but you can bet that the discounted cards will go up in price as well, probably the same $10. No thanks.

      • JennQPublic says:

        Meh. $50 a year is roughly four bucks a month. One less drink out a month. Half a movie. Less than toll to get to the city. Compared to other recreational activities, the price is extremely reasonable, even once you add in $9 a month for Netflix.

        When I move in a couple of weeks, I’m cancelling my cable, and going back to streaming Netflix over my Xbox. I’ll save over $100 a month, AND I will have decent servers to play Call of Duty over. Soooo worth it for me.

    • Alvis says:

      Not having to think saves you money?

      • jason in boston says:

        Yes – if I have the girl over and we are on the fence about going out or staying in. This creates a situation where I could fire up a game or see what is streaming on netflix and entertain us. Going out in Boston is expensive.

    • chiieddy says:

      Do the subscription cards expire if not used by a certain date? BJs sells 12 month live memberships for $44.99 online (I haven’t checked in store).

      • jezebelseven says:

        A lot of them have expiration dates on them but they don’t seem to actually *expire*. I’ve used some that were 3 years past expiration date and they worked just fine.

        Also they’re stackable, I want to say up to at least 3 years, maybe more.

        I understand them raising the price and I totally get $60 worth of use for a year, but I also get my cards when they go on sale on amazon or newegg. I do wish they’d given us a little more warning because I’m due for a renewal but was going to put it off until after xmas as money is tight, and now I’ll be paying more for that reason, as I imagine the sales on newegg and amazon will go up $10 too.

  4. Gnort says:

    I’m not sure what it would take to get people to stop paying for a service they already shouldn’t pay for. I pay $70 for new games, $38/month for internet and the cost of the computer hardware. That’s enough. This was one reason I stuck with PC games when I played a lot…the main reason being that you can’t beat a mouse and keyboard for control. “XBox Live” only offers what is free on PC games, PS3 and the WII.

    • c!tizen says:

      Sorry, I’ve played all of those services and none of them compare to the quality of XBL. It’s not cheap to keep servers up and running, and XBL handles millions of gamers at a time, and they do so much better and more seamlessly than PSN or Wii. And the controller thing is subjective, I prefer the 360 controller over a kb&m any day, but that’s just the flavor I like.

      Now that I’ve said that… Damnit MS, quit your shit. We all know you make more than enough money with the subscription costs as is. Your XBL setup is great, now just work on a console I don’t have to replace every 6 months and you’ll be golden.

      • Dyscord says:

        They’re adding a lot of shit in the upcoming months, something that consumerist leaves out. Most likely, ESPN and Hulu plus are the reasons the price is going up.

        And XBL is worth the money because of quality. Everyone seems to forget that simple fact.

        Plus, I love the hypocrisy of some of myfellow gamers. MS is terrible for charging 60 bucks a year for XBL, but no one complains about having to pay 15 bucks a MONTH to play WOW.

        • Genuineduck says:

          Maybe because WoW is a video game and XBL is not?

          If you only had to pay for XBL and got the video games for free your analogy would make sense.

          • Dyscord says:

            You pay to access the servers and play wow online. You do the same with xbox live. On top of that, you pay $12 to play one game online. And you still have to buy that game as well.

            No, my analogy makes sense. Somehow, paying to play one game online is better than paying for online access for a ton of games.

            • td0t says:

              Which may not even matter in a few months once people have to start paying for multiplayer access if they buy used games. This is a very slippery slope Dooley made a great point; why should the rest of us have to pay for features we don’t use and don’t intend to use. Sure, I’ve gotten my subscriptions cheaper because I wait til they get cheap on Amazon or Costco, but that doesn’t make what they’re doing right.

              Why tout features that you have to pay an additional fee to access on top of what you already pay? $10 for Hulu+, $9 for Netflix. All of the sudden, your subscription costs are $79 a year. Start tacking on a $10 fee here and there for those games you wanted to save a little bit of money to buy used and still play online, all of the sudden this looks like a terrible shift.

              Why not have tiered plans that still allow you to play online but don’t include Facebook, last.FM and other services that most gamers don’t need or want? In the long run, this is going to cause a good chunk of the XBL population not to renew and I can’t blame them.

        • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

          So, as someone who doesn’t watch sports… And as someone who doesn’t want (and will never watch) ESPN, I have to pay for YOUR subscription?

          And for Hulu PLus…. You still have to pay $10 per month to Hulu. I’ll never use it on the xbox – I’ll use Hulu Plus the way I do now — on my Mac Mini hooked up to my stereo & LCD television, using my Mac remote.

          So, adding a lot of services does not justify hiking the fee, if one will never use them. Let those who USE these services pay for them — not me.

        • thaJack says:

          @Dyscord… you will still have to pay for Hulu Plus… so don’t get too big an erection yet.

    • JennQPublic says:

      Because you get what you pay for. And we’re not talking about spending $1200 on a purse for ‘the quality’, we’re talking about $4 a month for decent servers. All of my PS3 friends complain about their ability to connect, and you know what? Servers aren’t free- and they’re getting what they pay for.

  5. Rocket says:

    This makes me kinda mad. I am not going to be use any of the “extra features”, so I shouldn’t have to pay for them. Time to go to Amazon and stock up on yearly cards.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Yeah, I think the savvier thing to do would have been to lock some of the features and tier the pricing. $60 might not seem much to some people, but it’s charging for a fundamental part of the experience and Microsoft would see more revenue in the long run if it didn’t give players this kind of ultimatum (“pay $60 or else”).

      • Wei says:

        This.

        Unfortunately my friends and I agree that multiplayer will always be on the top tier. :(

        • sn1per420 says:

          Not necessarily. They could do something like Sony did with the ps3, where everyone gets multiplayer gaming, but then paying gets you cross game chat, some discounted games, and hulu plus streaming

          • JennQPublic says:

            Yeah, but the PS3 multiplayer service sucks. :-(

            I hope Xbox multiplayer stays as a premium tier, because I really want to be able to connect to games and play a whole match without everyone dropping out of the lobby.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    In my opinion, the fact they continue to add content and maintain their service is WHY it’s okay to charge a monthly fee. I wouldn’t pay each month for service that is stagnant.

    So I’d say the increase is bupkiss; the current fees should cover maintainance, upgrades, and some profit.

  7. Rocket says:
  8. APFPilot says:

    I’m pretty sure that Playstation Network at $Free is a better value.

    • grucifer says:

      Apparently you haven’t used both services.

      • sn1per420 says:

        I’ve used both, and honestly, the only thing of value that xbl brings to the table is cross game voice chat.

        • Raekwon says:

          At least until you run into 12 year old racists that apparently are in romantic relations with not only your mother but also the sister you never knew you had. This often causes me to go to mute.

        • kujospam says:

          And that isn’t even that good. There are few times I want to hear other people when I’m playing a different game. That is annoying.

  9. shell_beach says:

    Just another reason to have PS3.

    blu ray
    free wireless card built in
    free psn
    and also ps3 doesnt come with a 60% failure rate
    games are the same minus each companies exclusive titles.

    the main thing people complain about on ps3 is the price.
    but if you add up these features and add up xbox features, xbox is more expensive and has a high failure rate which requires you to be out of a system for 1-3 months while they fix it.

    xbox wireless card 99$
    cheap blu ray player 80$
    xbox 199$
    4 years of online = 4*50$= 200$
    any more years add 60$

    total 580$

    ps3 299$
    hell even if you bought 1st gen at 500$ your still ahead!
    but more likely you paid 350-400

    so your up 180$

    • agent 47 says:

      xbox wireless card 99$ (not required and frankly, if you’re playing over a wireless connection, you should just stop playing games all together.)
      cheap blu ray player 80$ (Oh, so bluray players are a requirement for playing games are they?)
      xbox 199$ (Well, I can’t argue with that)
      4 years of online = 4*50$= 200$ (nobody pays retail for live, try $30 to $40 on average)
      any more years add 60$ (again)

      Check out reviews for cross platform games, the PS3 versions usually score slightly lower. The same indeed…

      • grucifer says:

        I have done nothing but play wirelessly on my 360 and I never lag. This isn’t 2002 anymore, wireless connections are more than adequate for online gaming these days.

    • pop top says:

      Mr. Squinko and I have already agreed that we’re going to drop our Gold membership once our current one runs out. While we do a bit of online multiplayer and stream Netflix a lot, it’s not worth the money now, sorry. Maybe if they had raised the main price AND lowered costs for avatar items, Arcade games and other things across the board, we might decide to keep it. I’d love to see thousands and thousands of people drop the service or not renew so they drop the prices.

      For those of you who use XBL Gold for streaming Netflix: you can still stream on your 360 through Windows Media Center.

      • pop top says:

        Huh, this was supposed to be it’s own comment. Don’t know how it ended up as a reply. Sorry…

    • Das G says:

      Your arguments is outdated considering that all the new Xbox 360s come with wireless-n, and they fixed the RROD problems a couple of years ago. And even if you got a RROD the turn around was a couple of weeks as opposed to 1-3 months like you said. However, with the rising rates of xbox live, the argument that the ps3 is a better value may be valid.

      • El_Fez says:

        and they fixed the RROD problems a couple of years ago.

        Dont believe the “We fixed the RROD” propaganda bullshit. I got an X-Box well after the ‘fix’ was implemented (purchased at the GTA4 launch) and guess what – I just got done hooking my system up to the TV after two weeks of sending it into the shop to be fixed.

        I enjoy my console, but don’t believe the bullshit. The system has ZERO stability, and apparently always will.

        • donkeydonkeypublicbathroom says:

          So you’re complaining of the RRoD on an xbox that you purchased over two years ago…when they were still having the problem? Like Das G said, the RRoD is pretty much non issue nowadays.

          • El_Fez says:

            No, mine was purchased from the lot that was suppose to have the new hardware,. AFTER Microsoft’s supposed “fix”.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      xbox wireless card 99$
      cheap blu ray player 80$
      xbox 199$
      4 years of online = 4*50$= 200$

      Games people actually want to play – priceless… :)

      Sorry, had to…I actually own both, and they both have their strengths. Frankly, I think this sucks. PSN has made strides towards achieving parity with Live, and the things MS has added are all free on PSN as the article mentioned. And MS also recently dropped support for original Xbox titles, giving us less functionality. So I don’t really see why MS is doing this. Tell you what, MS – give me a browser, clan support, a larger friends list, and some exclusives to rationalize this…

  10. minjche says:

    The price increase stinks but I can understand it, and to their credit, even though this “buy now or lose out” deal may seem like a ruse, at the very least you have the opportunity to buy at the current price. It would have been much worse if they had suddenly raised the price and made the announcement after the fact.

    Recently I’ve been using Xbox Live mostly for its Netflix (and because it seems like a better quality picture through HDMI than through the composite cables on my Wii, plus I connect my Xbox to my router with a cable, where the Wii will run slower with wireless). I could certainly justify redirecting my next year of membership with Live towards a Roku player (or a similar gadget).

    I was really bummed when they dropped 1vs100, too.

  11. Sword_Chucks says:

    The price is already high enough to get some of us with out much disposable income to drop it for free alternatives like the PS3, WII, or PC. Mainly on the PC since I get better deals on games, free updates, better control system, better online experience (less dbags and 12 year olds calling me words that shouldn’t be in their vocabulary at that age as I destroy them because its funny… wait, i do kinda miss that)

  12. jason in boston says:

    Question: will this bring back 1vs100? If so, I would even pay MSRP. The girlfriend and I would play this on weeknights. It was addicting. The “live” aspect was the best. I even had an email read once.

    This or some other “live” gameshow – type game.

    • I just blue myself says:

      I loved 1 vs. 100 and I don’t understand why they haven’t brought it back yet, whenever I was playing (even during the non-live shows), there would be thousands of people on. It’s an awesome concept and I wish they’d make it a regular thing.

  13. aloria says:

    $5/month is still worth it for Netflix streaming (no, I can’t get it on my laptop, stop pointing that out,) online game play, and the upcoming Hulu Plus. It’s still much cheaper than a subscription to cable, that’s for damned sure.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      No, the Netflix streaming isn’t worth $60/year. You can get a refurb Roku for that, and new ones aren’t much more expensive.

      It isn’t like Microsoft is absorbing any of Netflix’s costs or my costs. Why should I be paying for Netflix *AND* have this price hike for Live?

      • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

        They just dropped the prices. The new ones are $60.

      • aloria says:

        Roku does not allow for online gameplay, which is 75% of XBox Live’s appeal for me.

        If you’re only in it for the streaming content, YMMV.

    • pop top says:

      You can stream Netflix on your 360 through Windows Media Center and not have to pay for the Gold sub.

  14. cjpluta says:

    Personally I’d still pay if its $100 a year. I like my Halo.

  15. JonBonWonton says:

    Yeah, no thanks. I let my gold subscription lapse a short while ago and don’t miss it.

  16. pop top says:

    Mr. Squinko and I have already agreed that we’re going to drop our Gold membership once our current one runs out. While we do a bit of online multiplayer and stream Netflix a lot, it’s not worth the money now, sorry. Maybe if they had raised the main price AND lowered costs for avatar items, Arcade games and other things across the board, we might decide to keep it. I’d love to see thousands and thousands of people drop the service or not renew so they drop the prices.

    For those of you who use XBL Gold for streaming Netflix: you can still stream on your 360 through Windows Media Center.

  17. seth.gl says:

    I am surprised by the outrage. Not only is this the first price increase in 8 years, but it works out to only 83 cents a month extra. If your budget is so tight that an extra 83 cents a month causes you to alter you behavior, maybe you shouldn’t be spending so much time and money on gaming in the first place.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      It’s not the money, really, but the principle. Almost every feature added is either available free on other devices (e.g. Netflix streaming), or is revenue generating (e.g. movie/TV rentals). So what, exactly, have they added that justifies this price increase?

      • seth.gl says:

        They don’t have to add anything to justify the price increase. The price change can simply be blamed on inflation. According to the US Department of Labor $50 in 2002 dollars is equal to $60.59 in today’s dollars. So while Microsoft has continued to add features and value to Xbox live, the real price of the service is still lower than it was when first introduced.

        • Sparkstalker says:

          From the article and Major Nelson:
          “Since launching Xbox LIVE in 2002 we have continually added more content and entertainment experiences for our members, while keeping the price the same. We’re confident that when the new pricing takes effect, an Xbox LIVE Gold membership will continue to offer the best value in the industry.”
          MS is saying they’ve added content and features, implicitly stating that that’s the justification for the price increase. I’m just refuting that…

    • daveinva says:

      THIS. The price has been *extraordinarily* stable for a consumer product, and the value-to-price ration is very high.

      It’s a modest yearly fee for a service that many people use at least weekly, if not daily. And as others have noted, it’s been constantly upgraded over the years.

      Folks may have their complaints against Microsoft– I do– but this is one area they got right from the start, and keep doing well. Here’s your extra ten bucks for the good work, guys.

    • aloria says:

      Exactly. It’s less than the amount of inflation that has occurred over the past 8 years. People just like to whine.

    • Dyscord says:

      Meanwhile, most mmos are 15 bucks a month and NO ONE complains about that. But everyone complains that xbox live is 50/60 bucks a month?

      What’s wrong with this picture?!

  18. Skankingmike says:

    isn’t there some sort of ESPN content their are adding?

    I don’t’ have an xbox. I would’ve gotten one but my luck it would’ve died. (Everybody I know who has one has had one die).

    I stuck with the wii and ps3.

    The wii is fun when you have a group of people.

    and the PS3 is fun for the few console games i play.

    Other wise I’ll stick to the PC world when I want to play real games.

  19. Dre' says:

    Console Players = Suckers

  20. Daverson says:

    When my free trial of Xbox Live ran out, I let it go and never reupped. I’m not a big fan of multiplayer online games anyway, and it would be a cold day in hell when I start paying a third party to stream the Netflix service I’m already paying for.

    Xbox Live offers very little value to me. YMMV.

  21. El_Fez says:

    Huzzah! So I can pay more for the privilege of random strangers with turrets syndrome calling me “Fag” over the internet.

    No thanks. . . .

  22. markdt098 says:

    All you whiners need to remember that it has been out for 8 years without a single price hike. That, in my opinion, is outstanding and they definitely don’t need to justify hiking up the price.

  23. pantheonoutcast says:

    “What price do you think would be high enough to get customers to stop renewing Xbox Live Gold?”

    Casual users? They have a lower tolerance for price increases. The ceiling is probably about $100 a year before they move on and find something else to do with their time.

    People who actively and unironically refer to themselves as “Gamers”? You know, the kind of people who own every console ever made and routinely sleep in front of Gamestop for the privilege of being among the first people to pay $70 for a game only to have to pay $10 a month to actually use the game? The sky’s the limit.

    • kujospam says:

      Naw, gamers are usually cheap. Cheap cheap bastards. They only buy stuff they are fans of at high prices, everything else they buy at deep discounts. But they buy it to have it, and play it. But you also have those that don’t collect, and sell it at their first opportunity, unless the game is really good.

  24. chiieddy says:

    In addition, Xbox Live Gold users will be getting Hulu Plus included. It’s not a bad trade-off.

    • The Cynical Librarian says:

      You still have to pay for Hulu plus; it’s not an added bonus. It’s pretty much the same as the Netflix streaming. You still have to have a sub to the service to use it.

  25. DanRydell says:

    “Since 2002, Microsoft has added Netflix streaming, which is free on the Wii and PS3. It’s introduced Mii-like avatars, which it uses to peddle downloadable virtual clothing to play dress-up. And it’s delivered Facebook integration, something the PS3 also offers for free.”

    I think the price increase is a step in the wrong direction, but if you think that’s all Microsoft has added since 2002 you have no idea what you’re talking about. And if you don’t think that, maybe you should either write a more comprehensive list or don’t include a list at all. Cherry-picking the features that other services have implies that Xbox Live doesn’t offer anything better than the other services.

  26. brokentrinkets says:

    Thanks for reporting on the price hike, Phil, but I could really do without all of the editorializing about how paying for a service is evil.

    Xbox Live is a service. I think it’s worth $60, but I pay around $30-40/yr for it. I use it to keep in touch with friends, to access Netflix because I don’t want to use my non-HD Wii and don’t want to spend another $250 for a PS3 that’ll most likely sit unused in my house.

    I’ve been using Xbox Live since its inception in 2002 and I think it’s worth it.

    I don’t need your moral high ground against paying for services in my newsfeed.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      FYI, Roku just dropped the prices on the HD netflix boxes to $70. I’m not trying to change your mind or anything.

    • Dyscord says:

      Yeah, I found the MS bias annoying. Especially since services do this all the time. Netflix raised their prices a few years ago. I guess they did that “because they can”

  27. dr_drift says:

    Oh, so that’s where the $400 million is going to come from for Windows Phone 7′s marketing campaign.

  28. Andy S. says:

    I’ve never had a Gold subscription. Not only am I opposed to paying for access to a service that is actually provided by another company and that I’m already paying for (Netflix), but also to paying for access to services that are already free from basically any other device (Facebook, Twitter).

    Beyond this Xbox Live Gold only provides advance access to game demos (something that used to be free for everybody), periodic “sales” on XBLA titles (I’m paying for the opportunity to buy other stuff from you for slightly less money? Thanks?), and online play.

    It isn’t worth the money at the current price, and will be even less worth it at the new price.

  29. kriswone says:

    I originally got a Wii, loved it, very party friendly.
    Then i got an XBOX 360, it was OK at best, i played the norm, halo, gears, gta.
    Then i got a PS3.

    Since the PS3 has come into my life, i unplugged the Wii from the Electrical Outlet (to conserve power) and GAVE AWAY MY XBOX 360.

    I have not enjoyed anything as much as my PS3, well maybe GoldenEye for 64, but that was a long time ago.

  30. swarrior216 says:

    Oh PS3 how I love thee.

  31. Piddles says:

    The whole charge for Xbox Live rubs me the wrong way. It’s extortion to enjoy the full functionality of games that I already paid for. Everyone makes it sound like they are offering some robust amount of services. It really isn’t unless you don’t have access to a computer or smartphone. Xbox Live is what a world without Net Neutrality would be like. Maybe I wouldn’t mind paying it, if it actually offered something good as an exclusive. As it stands now, there really isn’t anything about the service worth paying for that isn’t being offered for free elsewhere.

  32. sickyd says:

    This isn’t that big of a price hike considering what you are receiving. They are about to roll out tons of ESPN content and Hulu Plus. I don’t know about you but I will no longer need a cable/satellite subscription. The one thing that has always kept me on cable is ESPN, now I will gladly get rid of the $60+ per month I have to pay to get one channel in HD. Plus they are letting you lock in rates right now, so setup your renewal and go buy a bunch of the 12 month cards if you are REALLY that worried about a $10 price increase.

  33. lanigan911 says:

    It doesn’t bother me one bit. I don’t play online, and PlayOn streams Hulu, Netflix, ESPN3, and a bunch of other stuff, all without a LIVE subscription.

  34. t-spoon says:

    I can understand why, at first glance, Xbox Live seems like a scam. An annual fee to play online?

    But it really is worth the money. Everything is just so cohesive, it was absolutely the #1 reason I bought a 360 vs a PS3.

  35. thaJack says:

    As an added bonus, next year, we’ll offer Hulu Plus to Gold Live members. Oh, don’t forget you also have to pay money to Hulu.

    And… as an introductory offer to go with the awesome email we sent you this morning, you can spend the entire morning wondering what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe, because XBOX Live is broken this morning!

  36. infamousjre says:

    First price raise in 8 years… yeah, I don’t really have a problem with it.

  37. dush says:

    Don’t forget the zune store where you have to pay to watch movies or tv shows. But you can only pay to watch them if you pay for a subscription first.

  38. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    I already let mine lapse back into silver and don’t miss it. (Especially since 1vs100 was killed.) The only reason I would renew my Gold would be for Netflix streaming – but I actually like the Wii’s Netflix interface better, and that’s free.

  39. Abradax says:

    I haven’t subscribed to Live in over a year.

    If I want to play online with my friends, I’ll do it with the PS3 and put up with the sub par but free online service.

  40. JadePharaoh says:

    Sony recently released Playstation Plus; a premium version of their normally free Playstation Network service. It’s a paid membership that exists alongside PSN, but it gives access to various exclusive content along with discounts on certain DLC. I think it’s a pretty fair setup and it seems better than the flat rate hike that Microsoft is doing.