MS launches PGR2 Live bundle
New look Starter Kit and Live sub renewal options unveiled.
It may be tempting to compare Microsoft to the taxman (or indeed any symbolic evildoer) in announcing online gaming renewal payment options, but even when the big M squeezes us for cash these days it still seems oddly worthwhile. Perhaps because in Xbox Live it has a visionary new toy that everybody wants to play with - literally for years on end.
And since we are rapidly approaching the end of Live's first year in service, March 14th 2004, it's nearly time to cough up a bit more dinero to keep the party going. (We'll ignore the fact that most "Test Drive" beta users signed up in November 2002 and have already renewed.) Fortunately, MS has been thinking about this too (Yes, Mikerowesoft has been thinking about money), and has drawn up a set of options for Live users old, new, and unconvinced.
For the unconvinced, a new revised Starter Kit is almost guaranteed to kick-start some interest. Like the original pack, you get a one-year subscription and an Xbox Communicator headset, but gone this time are the demo versions and instead we have a bundled copy of Bizarre Creations' magnificent Project Gotham Racing 2 - arguably the best title on the entire broadband gaming service. Although the new look SK costs €89.99/£59.99 - a hike of some 20 quid - it's certainly still decent value. And if you couldn't care less about PGR2, the original SK (with MotoGP and MechAssault online demo versions) will continue to sell for €59.99/£39.99.
In fact, buying another Starter Kit is one of Microsoft's proffered renewal options. It costs €59.99/£39.99 to subscribe for another year anyway - by buying another SK, you avoid charging your credit card with something you can't hide from the missus, plus you gain a handy spare Communicator and you can keep your existing stats and Gamertag, which is obviously a key consideration.
For those who can't be arsed to get up off the couch, extra headset or not, the dashboard should allow expiring subs to be renewed at the cost of €59.99/£39.99 annually or €6.99/£4.99 monthly if you really can't stomach another year. It just goes ahead and bills the credit card listed on the account. These options (including the SK purchase) are all valid for any existing Live subscriber, whether they joined in March 2003 or January 2004 - and even if they're using the two-month trial offer bundled with a bunch of high-profile Live titles at Christmas.
"We're committed to creating multiple entry points to Xbox Live that suit every budget and preference, and this new Starter Kit package is a great way for gamers to get in and start building their legend on Xbox Live," says senior Xecutive Michel Cassius on the new PGR2 bundle offer. "The renewal options make it easy to continue making friends and competing with rivals online. We've listened to gamers when developing these offers, and will be announcing further initiatives in the coming months to encourage even more gamers to join the growing Live community"
With more than 100,000 Live users in Europe now, and a publicly stated intention of having one million worldwide subscribers by June of this year, this seems to be one bandwagon worth riding. It goes very fast, too. "Renew! Renew!"