Over the past few years or so, Microsoft have made a targeted effort to put all their entertainment services under the Xbox moniker, dropping the branding of times past, with the death of the Zune and the emergence of Windows Phone. With said changes, there has come a wide-array of branding efforts to meld the look and feel of the Xbox Music and Xbox Video applications across Windows 8, Xbox One, and Windows Phone devices.
The question that’s begging to be asked is, “Other than the obvious branding benefits of having Music and Video under the same name, why use the Xbox brand.” The answer to this question is in-fact more simple than one would realize. The Xbox is easily one of Microsoft’s most-beloved business areas. It’s one of the few areas of the company that has garnered an Apple-like cult following. While attempting to quantify the amount of rabid fanboyism surrounding the Xbox brand, one only needs to look at the colossal manner in which the Xbox 360 hardware was botched. The debacle was a result of console overheating, playing out very much in the public eye. It even fostered its own nickname, The Red Ring Of Death. Yet the massively loyal following was still there. Overcoming such an overwhelmingly critical-blow while maintaining an avid fan-base, shows the Xbox brand has the hearts and minds of the people.
And while these unification efforts have come as a welcomed changed, it still feels like something may be missing with the formula. Why have various services under the same name, with similar look and feel, without providing the financial incentive across each? Wouldn’t it be worth while to create financial effectiveness with each of their offerings.
To point out a service that gets this right, we need look no further than Amazon and its Prime Membership. What do you get with a prime membership: two-day shipping from Amazon.com, unlimited instant streaming from Amazon Prime Video, and the ability to borrow books on your Kindle. That’s what synergy looks like.
In a recent interview Phil Spencer, who is the new head of Xbox, stated, “I go back and I look at 1999 with Apple. And they, on the back of music, became a very relevant consumer brand.”
And it’s obvious that Xbox is attempting to do the same with the its brand as the core of entertainment on all Microsoft platforms. Yet and still there is a need to take things a bit further. That step could be the inclusion of an additional tier of Xbox Membership. So what would an Xbox Live Platinum membership entail? Making services that have the Xbox name, feel more like Xbox services. This is not just about the visual aesthetic and coalescence in name, but the services themselves.
Start off by making Xbox Music streaming available on Xbox One, Windows Phone, as well as Windows 8 for those paying for this tier of service. The fact that even the ad-supported version—like on Windows 8— is not there for at least paying Gold members is a bit of a travesty. I think a lot of people would pay a bit more for a platinum membership if this was included. And to be honest, very few people are going to pay the normal $99.99 a year for a music subscription alone.
Next, provide more value in Xbox Video by providing an allotted amount of movies available each month at no additional cost. This can be done in a way that is something along the line of Games with Gold, or even just a static number for any movies on the service. This would also provide extra value to Xbox Video as a service, by allowing more familiarity with the platform.
Another thing they could look at is extending the Games with Gold model to other platforms. How about one free Window Phone or Window 8 game a month for those with a platinum membership? Sony does this now by including the PlayStation Vita in their free games a month offering. Or better yet, once the newly announced universal apps are in place, provide one free a month.
How about some free SkypeOut minutes? This is something that I see probably not even being used that much, but sometimes its the thought that counts. I would speculat the amount of people actually purchasing Skype minutes is very low. Margin for this portion of the Skype service can’t be great, but the potential sentiment for subscribers of an all-encompassing subscription can be.
Additionally, but probably the least likely, implement some form of Office 365 rights for the platinum member. The ability to install Microsoft Office on one device would be enough to add value for even the lightest of office users.
Again, all of the aforementioned proposals are not only meant to make Xbox Live as a service a better proposition, but also to foster a sense of cohesiveness among Microsoft as a company. With Satya Nadella at the helm as the new CEO, and Phil Spencer now taking over the Xbox reigns, the time is ripe to make a huge impact on the company in Redmond. If Microsoft is truly now a services company, then in the words of a one Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so.”
These are just a few things that come to my head. What are your ideas?