Go Ahead, Try To Make Sense Of This Xbox Live Pricing Scheme

Did you know that “free” is basically the same thing as $10? Neither did Jer, until he went to renew his Xbox Live account. He tells Consumerist that along with his account expiration date, he discovered the most baffling pricing scheme this side of Target.

He writes:

Hey, I was looking into when my xbox live membership was going to run out and came across some very weird pricing. (screen shot attached)

confusing xbox live pricing is confusing

Based on your current membership, the following options are available:

12 Months + 1 FREE – $59.99
12 Months for $49.99 – $49.99
Xbox LIVE 12 mo. Gold Membership – $59.99
12 Months for $53.99 – $53.99
3 Month Gold – $24.99
3 Months for $12.49 – $12.49
3 Months for $18.99 – $18.99
1 Month for $1 – $1.00
Xbox LIVE Monthly Gold Membership – $8.99

So we have 12 months with a “free” month for $59.99, or 12 months for $49.99, or 12 months for $53.99. Even better is the 1 month for $1 or 1 month for $8.99.

Perhaps this is a stealth consumer intelligence test, with promotional rates mixed in alongside the regular prices. Your punishment for failing the test? Having to pay more.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    1 month for $1 ?! How many 1 month can you buy?

  2. backinpgh says:

    IQ test?

  3. steveliv says:

    Never buy gold membership directly from Microsoft! Always wait until the redeemable 1 year cards cards go on sale for around $35 (which they do quite often)

    • BobSalawalatski says:

      +1, I always get mine from Amazon when they go on sale. Much cheaper that way.

    • NashuaConsumerist says:

      Agreed, I’ve found 12 month and 12+1 month as cheap as $25. But if I remember correctly they’ll be offering a 4 user 1 year pack for $100. Now that’s great for me (I have 3 friends who live at my house who play on LIVE) but really, who else would that cater to? How many other households have 4 active gamertags?

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      Even when they aren’t on sale you can still get them for around $40 which is already $10 cheaper than directly through XBL.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      Indeed. The absolute easiest way to do this is to set up an email alert on them from a site like DealNews. When my membership gets below six months, I just wait for a good one to show up in my inbox. Problem solved and I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $35 for Live.

    • dangermike says:

      Agreed. They frequently get marked down to $35 at Newegg (and their standard price is $40)

    • eddieck says:

      Or you could just get a PC and enjoy the latest hardware with 60 Hz games and the best controls (keyboard and mouse, steering wheel, joystick, or even Xbox controllers) and get free multiplayer on most paid games (paid games meaning you buy the game for $50, not WoW where you don’t pay anything up-front, just the $10 monthly).

      • Not a Fan Boy says:

        Only you do pay up front for “WoW” or any of the other many MMO games that existed before Blizzard entered the market.

        • eddieck says:

          That’s news to me. I did the WoW trial and was able to download the game (with no expansions). I didn’t like it though, and so cancelled it.

      • MrBeetle says:

        And spend $500 per year keeping up with the best technologies, only hoping that the new game is compatable with what you have?

        I gave up PC gaming in favor of console gaming – I like that I can plug it in and it works as intended, and that every player is on the same level of equipment.

        • eddieck says:

          $500 per year? You’re doing something wrong. A GTX 460 1 GiB is $230, or you could get a 5770 for around $140. Both will last you at least 3 or 4 years and run all the latest games at decent (higher than console) settings at 1680×1050 or 1920×1080. I myself am using a 9800 GTX+ for 1920×1080 and I’m happy with its performance in most games.

      • Framling says:

        Oh, hey, thanks for totally solving his problem! Man, I love how everyone wants and needs the same things, it’s so convenient.

  4. smo0 says:

    Idiots… did he contact them about this?

  5. ShruggingGalt says:

    What is the problem? Each one is a different option.

    The first one, which includes one month free, is for a GOLD account.

    Which is also the third option, same price, but without the free month. For the same price. Probably some script that only *adds* buttons without removing the ones that wouldn’t apply anymore……

    • zegota says:

      Gold is the only option there is. Silver is free. All the different options are Gold accounts, so the pricing makes no sense.

    • arsenicookie says:

      they are all for a gold account. the silver account is free.

      • consumedeletedestroy says:

        No, they are not. You are obviously not a customer of Xbox LIVE (or at least one that doesn’t make many observations) because Microsoft runs ads on the “Spotlight” section claiming “One month of Xbox LIVE for $1 for a month. Silver members only”.

        Same thing with the other odd options.

        Why is his account showing all of these options even though he has Gold? Not a clue.

  6. balthisar says:

    Seems obvious. You can get twelve months of “Gold” for $60, or you can get 13 months of “Gold” for $60 (the text box indicates “Gold” for the 13 month plan). The $50 plan doesn’t indicate Gold, and I assume it doesn’t state “gold” in the text box either.

    • zegota says:

      As I said to the poster above you, “Gold” is the only option available to buy for Xbox Live. “Silver” level is free (and you don’t have access to online play, only downloading). These options are all for Xbox Live Gold, and the pricing makes no sense.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        I think all the people who don’t get that Silver is free and Gold is paid are just proving the point even further!

        • balthisar says:

          You guys are right. I don’t know a thing about Xbox Live. Online was always free with the Original XBox.

          • tubedogg says:

            Uh…No, no it wasn’t. Online multiplayer (the primary feature of Xbox Live Gold) has always been $50 a year, even on the original Xbox.

  7. dbeahn says:

    I suspect that these are simply all the active plans. People that bought the “12 Months + 1 FREE – $59.99” and signed up for auto-renewal are still being billed for that, so it remains “active” and therefore an option.

    Comical, sure, but not that big a deal.

  8. qbubbles says:

    I understand it just fine. Took a little bit, but the first one is the promotional 12 month + 1 month (Gold Membership) whereas the one below is is the regular 12 month of non gold membership.

    • zegota says:

      There is no such thing as non-Gold membership. The only other type of membership is Silver, and that is free (you can only download, not play online).

    • aloria says:

      There is no “non-gold” XBOX Live paid account. Gold is the only one you pay for. Silver is free.

    • corrie06 says:

      They’re all Gold whether specified or not. Silver level is free and you have to pay for Gold.

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      What’s with all the people coming up with the same (stupid) conclusion? If you have no idea how XBox Live works then why would you feel the need to comment at all?

      As has already been repeated mentioned . . . Gold is the only pay service offered by MS.

      • qbubbles says:

        In that same vein, why do you feel the need to chastise me after 4 others have done the same thing? Hmmm?

        Besides, according to that screen shot, that’s the only conclusion you can draw. Now, quit paying to play video games and pay for MMORGs like everyone else.

        • Megalomania says:

          You were chastised because you made an incorrect assumption and stated it as fact, while at the same time implying that whoever sent it in (and clearly also uses Xbox LIVE) was being dumb.

        • coren says:

          No, the conclusion I draw is that the site is being run by someone who isn’t paying enough attention.

          Also, hahaha @ not paying for video games and paying for MMOs instead.

        • Fallom says:

          Why are you offended that he caught you out on not knowing what you’re talking about? Gold is the only paid service MS offers.

        • Conformist138 says:

          Why were you chastised when four people above you said the same thing and all four of them were rebuked? Gee, I wonder.

  9. jaydeflix says:

    Or, you know, it could be a poor html push/website programming snafu.

    Those never happen.

    • Jeff_Number_3 says:

      Agreed. I suspect that due to some reason the account is valid for multiple levels of upgrade not normally avaliable to people… For example some people might only see the 12 months for 53.99 while repeat (or new) customers may see the 12 months for 49.99 plan, and the site isn’t correctly pruning options that are duplicates time amounts.

  10. halcyoncmdr says:

    It is plainly obvious that some of those are the normal rates (Monthly for $8.99, 3 Months for $24.99, and 12 months for $59.99) The rest are special offers on the table right now. So when you compare each of those offers versus their respective “regular” offers they each offer other benefits.

    You can take the 12 months for $59.99 (regular)
    Or 12 months for $49.99 ($10 cheaper)
    Or 12+1 months for $59.99 (Same price as regular, but an extra month)

    If you can’t read this then you probably shouldn’t be trying to decipher numbers at all.

    • qwickone says:

      Actually, it’s not plainly obvious at all. If they wrote “SPECIAL” or something like that next to the specials, THEN it would be plainly obvious. So you’re just wrong.

      • Kitamura says:

        Well, we actually don’t know that. Seems like when you select an option it fills that textbox on the side with a description. Just look at the one selected in the screenshot, it starts with the text “Exclusive Limited Time Offer”. How do we know the other ones don’t have special text explaining their promotion?

    • TorontoConsumer says:

      What about the 12 months for 53.99? Where does that play in?

  11. NashuaConsumerist says:

    Not indicated here, but it could reflect the addition of ‘messaging/messenger’ to Gold accounts. I saw somewhere once haveing the additional messenger service within LIVE was extra. I can’t be sure, I don’t use it, but of all the active gamertags in the house I log in with ‘messenger’ active and everyone else logs in with a pop-up that says ‘messenger unavailable’. I can’t defend what looks like ill-written and priced packages, but only offer an additional factor to consider.

  12. Rhainor says:

    Or you can go on Amazon and get a 12-month card for $35.

    • zomgorly says:

      Yea I normally buy mine on amazon when they offer a sale. I got my last one for $30, months before I needed to renew.

  13. Grabraham says:

    I think MS is working on it. When I went to see what the options were on my account I got “Sorry, this page is unavailable”

  14. mcpeepants says:

    combo of legacy offers, custom offers, and the “”retail”” prices

  15. Jerkamie says:

    Btw they fixed their strange prices.

    Xbox LIVE 12 mo. Gold Membership – $59.99
    3 Month Gold – $24.99
    Xbox LIVE Monthly Gold Membership – $8.99
    Redeem Code

    Now you don’t get a free month at all or its $10 more a month.

  16. dp05 says:

    Could it possibly be a browser issue? I’ve seen a few rare occasions where certain browsers load a site differently and that could cause the promo offers to be shown as well…

    Just a thought, no idea if it has merit or not.

  17. shinseiromeo says:

    This may make some laugh and roll eyes, but what MS does with XBL Gold should be illegal. I have always had gold and still have a current subscription, but I DO NOT WANT TO SEE ADS WHEN I PAY FOR YOUR INTERNET PRIVELAGES.

    Every single time I log in it’s a rolling video screen for Doritos, McDonalds, or walmart.

    • dolemite says:

      Better get used to it…not only will you probably see more ads, but now you are starting to see ads in games too.

      • midniteslayr says:

        Starting to? Um, ads in games have been going on for the past 10-12 years. By now, it is almost a requirement for AAA title games that have HUGE budgets to have ads in the games.

    • d0x360 says:

      99% of the time those ads are tied to a contest. if you click the ad it brings you to a entry page and you download a gamer picture which enters you into said content. The prize is normally a large sum of MS points but sometimes its money, trips or extentions of your subscription.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Should be illegal? Sure, it’s definitely fraud, because you have the contract where Microsoft agreed not to have ads on XBL if you signed up for gold. Just post the pdf.

  18. ARVash says:

    provided the customer is 100% honest; MICROSOFT HAS ACHIEVED PERFECT PRICE DISCRIMINATION!!! WOAH. Call an economist this is brilliant.

  19. ap0 says:

    I got a deal through Xbox live for $40 for a year (better than the usual $50). Last year I bought a card, but when I needed to renew all the cards were around $40 with shipping, so I figured might as well just make it easy on myself.

    I must have shopped around for months for one of those cards… all to save about $5.

  20. PupJet says:

    It is rather obvious that they were not paying attention and chances are, failed to properly read the text boxes or else they would have noted the “3 Month” pricing tier. :P

  21. xjeyne says:

    I just tried to renew my gold account and only saw four options: $49.99/year, $19.99/3mo, $7.99/1mo., and redeem code.

    There’s no date on this screenshot but I think it might be pretty dated. Microsoft used to actually sell their 12 month cards in retail stores with an extra month (so 13 months for $49.99) but they don’t anymore.

    • xjeyne says:

      Nevermind, I had to enlarge it to see the date, so I’m going to go with what that other guy said and assume it’s some bad code.

  22. Levk says:

    Something tells me that there are pieces of the puzzle missing, or at least some poor person was lazy and did not type it all out

  23. Amsterdaam says:

    Ok, a little more explanation for those who don’t play video games. I see a lot of false information in the comments.

    1. All paid subscriptions for xbox live are Gold. The alternate, silver, is free but cannot be used for online multiplayer, just to download game updates, chat and message, and buy stuff from the store.

    2. Messaging does not cost extra.

    3. There are no tiers of service, it is standard.

    4. This looks like a system error. Microsoft has kept the Xbox live gold rates purchased directly from them the same since the beginning.

    As someone else stated, if you buy the preloaded cards, they tend to dip in price from time to time.

  24. dvddesign says:

    FACT: For the last year, for whatever reason between January and March most retailers put their Xbox Live 12 month cards on sale.

    I’d think they’re capitalizing on people coming off of holiday rushes of 1 month/3 month cards bought by family…

    I usually buy into them then since the deals go as low as $30. Buy that, not this, never this.

    $50 a month is preposterous. Look out for NewEgg (it’s $40 right now with free shipping), Amazon/Walmart’s price war (you could actually go into a Walmart this year and buy a 12 mo card on the shelf for as low as $30.)

    Buy.com also usually has them on sale too.

    I bought so many 12+1 month cards initially, my subscription rolls into May at this point, so I’ve got a huge buffer from year to year.

  25. Difdi says:

    My head hurts…