As Microsoft attempts to improve margins by tempting buyers into their own online store, we investigate the value on offer.
“Huh,” I thought to myself, when presented with a banner ad, touting the Xbox One Gamer Bundle direct from the Microsoft store, “I never thought of buying my console direct from Microsoft before.”
I imagine lots of you have probably never considered it, either. While we’ll readily purchase subscriptions and software direct from Microsoft, it’s far more likely that you’d head over to somewhere like Amazon or Rakuten if you were shopping online, or perhaps GameStop or Game if you were wanting to take advantage of their respective loyalty schemes. Microsoft are clearly taking a leaf out of Apple’s book and positioning themselves as a lifestyle brand, not just an operating system vendor, and the Microsoft online storefront serves that purpose. Are their hardware bundles good value, though?
The banner advert I saw for the Gamer Bundle contained the same image as in this article’s header: an Xbox One console, three games, a controller and a headset; plus a card for Xbox Live subscription, a £10 gift card, and a logo for EA Access; and that oh-so-enticing price, “from £304.99”. I was intrigued, and clicked through to the Microsoft store, to be presented with the following breakdown:
Already not looking quite so appealing as the top image, is it? There are a lot of caveats there. Three games aren’t in fact included in the Xbox One Gamer Bundle – you get one game for free, and can choose two more at a discount – and it is unclear exactly what’s going on with the accessories. Still, 12 month Gold membership, a £10 gift card and free EA Access subscription aren’t to be sniffed at, especially when you’re paying £304.99 and the console alone costs £299.99 direct from Microsoft. Undeterred, I clicked through to build my own Xbox One Gamer Bundle, and was presented with a myriad of options.
Building your own Gamer Bundle
First up, I picked my console base. Seemed a superfluous choice as there was only one option, but no matter. Then I got to choose my free game. I decided, for the sake of the experiment, I would make my bundle match the one pictured above, so I picked Evolve for my free game as it was the most expensive of the three. So far, so good. I had two items in my bundle – the console, and a free game – I needed a third to get the bundle to its minimum component stage of three items, and I was presented with the following:
That’s either a 12 month Gold subscription, with £5 discount, or a £10 gift card, with the same £5 discount. The front page definitely made it look like both those items were included in this bundle, didn’t it? Anyway, carrying on – I added them both, because that’s what the bundle showed on the banner ad.
Then I got to add my second discounted title. Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Halo: The Master Chief Collection were my options (as they were in the advert too) and they were both discounted to £29.99 each, each down from £44.99. I added Unity first, then went to add the Master Chief Collection and found the second title had jumped from £29.99 to £34.99. Hmmm. Things are starting to seem a little unfair now, but I’m powering through all the same.
I then added the pictured stereo headset at a measly £27.49 – down from £39.99 – and had the option of a second controller, priced at £37.49 (down from £49.99). I was unsure whether to add the controller, because the bundle only showed a single controller in the picture and I couldn’t decide whether that was the one included with the console, or an extra one. Then I spotted that the controller on offer is a special edition ‘Armed Forces’ controller with a distinctive camouflage motif, which matches with the one in the banner ad. I threw it into my basket.
Then, as promised, I get to add a free 12-month subscription to EA Access into my basket. I won’t bore you with the details here – you can find more info on EA Access from their own website – but essentially it’s a bit like Games for Gold or the PSN for EA titles only; part free downloads, part discounts, part early access. Not bad for free, and would’ve cost £47.99 for the year on subscription. No arguments over the value on offer there, even if it’s not necessarily something I would’ve gone out of my way to buy if it weren’t free.
So, I’ve built my own Xbox One Gamer Bundle. There have been some genuinely free things (the first game, the EA Access subscription) and some things that I knew were discounted and not free before I started (the second and third games). There have also been a few things that I was expecting to be free from the advert that weren’t (the Xbox live goodies) and some things I had no idea what to expect (the accessories). What’s the damage?
I’m not naive, I know how advertised discounts work, but I was still surprised that my Xbox One Gamer Bundle came out quite that expensive. Is the advertising deliberately misleading? It’s not my place to say, but there were absolutely things in that bundle that I was expecting to be free (based on the initial advertising) that I ended up having to pay (albeit discounted prices) for. With the basic Gamer Bundle – a console, a free game, the EA Access subscription and a gift card for £304.99 – it works out decent value above the £299.99 standalone console cost, although perhaps not as cheap as you might find in other outlets. While the idea of building your own bundle is appealing versus picking them off-the-peg in retail outlets, it’s unfortunate that once you start adding more things into your basket, the discounts are still there but the returns are diminishing.
The important thing to keep in mind here, is to watch out for the operative words in advertising. ‘From’ and ‘up-to’ can be used devastatingly effectively to showcase wonderfully cheap headline price, then sting you with the reality when you get to the checkout. And as always, don’t forget to shop around – I know I will be doing.