It would be less than accurate to say the new Xbox All Access offering from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is bulletproof. There are some clear downsides, and the most recent iteration of the program seems to raise as many questions as it answers. Still, it’s a program current and prospective owners of Microsoft stock should celebrate.
It makes buying the uncomfortably expensive Xbox far more palatable to gamers. Indeed, factoring in access to “rented” games rather than requiring the outright purchase of them, Xbox All Access is now arguably the better value relative to owning the rival PlayStation 4 console, made by Sony (NYSE:SNE).
In that light, it’s pure genius.
Introducing Xbox All Access
The new program was officially unveiled late last month. The software giant already offered online access to an ever-rotating collection of more video games through a service called Xbox Game Pass (think of it as a Netflix for Xbox games). Through the new Xbox All Access program though, gamers can effectively rent-to-own an Xbox console, while also enjoying access to all the titles available via Game Pass.
Two plans are available. For $21.99-per-month paid over period of two years, video gamers can purchase an Xbox One S … Microsoft’s capable, more affordable console that retails for somewhere between $250 and $300. Consumers willing to pay $34.99-per-month can essentially finance the purchase of the more powerful Xbox One X, which is normally available at price points between $400 and $500, depending on the bundle in question.
Both plans include access to Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, both of which would each normally sell for $10-per-month (though the latter gets considerably cheaper when longer-term commitments are made).
Although credit for the program is being provided by Dell (credit check is required), sign-ups for the service — and retrieval of the console — are only handled at a Microsoft store. No online sign-up is available … at least not yet.
Microsoft says the offering is only going to be offered for a limited time.
Pure Genius From MSFT
Truth be told, it’s not likely that even Microsoft knows how Xbox All Access will pan out. At this stage it’s likely only to be a relatively inexpensive experiment from a company that desperately needs to get creative in how it makes and markets its video game wares.
Sony has essentially won the console gaming war, by the way. As of the end of last year, Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) estimates that Sony has sold two and a half times more PlayStation 4 units than Microsoft has sold of its Xbox One.
Perhaps worse, Nintendo (OTCMKTS:NTDOY) — which just a couple years ago was a distant third in terms of gaming-based revenue, and losing ground — earlier this year was projected to lap Microsoft on the purely financial metric.
The advent of Xbox All Access may or may not stop that bleeding, though it’s difficult to think it will somehow hurt Microsoft’s gaming business or Microsoft stock. It’s another way to sell Xbox consoles, which ultimately becomes another way to sell Xbox games. It’s another chance for MSFT to collect a little (or a lot) of revenue through in-game micro-transactions.
Tim Woodley, senior vice president for video game developer 505 Games and supporter of Game Pass recently commented on his company’s success via Microsoft’s service “We don’t need to make a ton of money off that first purchase because we know if we can keep the player engaged that DLC will grow because they are enjoying the game … Something like Game Pass heightens that ability. It was looked at like the service that was going to cannibalize sales, but we’ve seen the opposite.”
Arguably more than anything else though, the launch of Xbox All Access may well extend the shelf-life of an Xbox One product lineup that was already losing traction, proving unaffordable for some gamers, while satisfying other would-be subscribers who may have been holding out for the oft-rumored, but never-confirmed PlayStation 5 presumed to become available next year. That gives MSFT several months to pull some people into the Xbox ecosystem where they just might stay.
In the meantime, the company may finally use the time it’s been given to start developing some much-needed exclusive titles.
Bottom Line for Microsoft Stock
As for the impact the launch of such a program may make on MSFT stock, there’s more potential here than it may seem on the surface. It’s a “slow burn” kind of impact though.
Few investors — even those who own Microsoft stock — realize it, but video gaming now accounts for about a tenth of the company’s total revenue, and its gaming division’s top line grew nearly 40% year-over-year last quarter.
That only scratches the surface of what could be, however. The video gaming industry should be worth just a little less than $138 billion this year, but the industry could grow to a market worth $180 billion by 2021. Microsoft wasn’t in a tremendous position to capture its fair share of that growth, and it still may not. At least with Xbox All Access in place though, the company has a decent chance at fending off more affordable competition.
It’s a start in the right direction for Microsoft stock.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.