The Future of Gadgets Is Monthly Subscriptions
When I found myself slapping the refresh button last week, trying to snag a preorder for an Xbox Series X console, I found myself surprised by a choice right on the buy page: Would I like to subscribe to the hardware, rather than pay the full price up front?
The choice seemed simple enough. Instead of paying $500 outright, I could pay $34.99 per month and get an Xbox Series X console. While subscribing to an Xbox isn’t a new offering, it’s the first time it’s been front-and-center on the product page during a launch.
For the $34.99 monthly fee, Microsoft also provides access to its new on-demand game service, Game Pass Ultimate, which allows you to play over 100 games like Halo without paying for those outright, either. That subscription is usually $24.99 per month.
Being offered this choice caught me off guard because consoles are expensive up-front investments, and I had never contemplated subscribing to hardware before this. For an extra $10 a month on top of Game Pass Ultimate, which I’d already be paying for anyway, Microsoft is throwing in the entire console, which seems like a great deal. There is a catch, however: You don’t actually own the console until you pay it off over a period of 24 months.
I ended up buying the Xbox outright because I prefer to pay up front and actually own my devices. But Microsoft’s choice to highlight the subscription option during purchase, right next to paying full price, is a huge shift for the industry, and a sign of what’s to come for other hardware, as well.
In 2020, it feels like there’s a subscription service for everything from music on Spotify to toilet paper from Amazon, and it’s somehow completely normal. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I actually have subscriptions to not only a monthly wine box, but coffee and vitamins, as well: I’d just forget to order them on time otherwise.
Buying devices via a monthly fee, however, has largely been limited to smartphones before now. Many people are on monthly…