Thursday, July 21, 2011

What You Need to Know About XBL Gold Family Pack

You've seen the ads all over and on your dashboard.  But is it really worth it?  Already have Gold? Don't have three gaming family members? Concerned about costs and renewal?  Here is what's up.

The Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack is available for $99.99.  What it includes is four one-year Gold subscriptions. In case you weren't sure what Gold allows you to do, it provides the player with the ability to play online multiplayer games, download games and other content, stream services like Netflix, Last FM, and Zune with appropriate subscriptions, and party chat with friends.  

The regular cost for one year of Gold membership is usually $60.  There are frequently deals out there that can get you a discount or pay full price but also get some free downloads or Microsoft points.  But comparing flat out rates, the Family Pack is clearly the better deal.  Four subscriptions would normally cost $240, and the Family Pack provides it for $100.  That is obviously a pretty major savings.

Be aware that there are some restrictions.  One person is in control of all four accounts.  That person has the ability to set parental controls and other system restrictions from their computer.  The primary account holder can also monitor and track the amount of time online and what each person in the group is doing.  So if you have a friend that loves practical jokes, you might not want them to be in charge of everyone's account.

When it comes time to sign people up, personal information will have to be shared.  The primary account holder logs on and adds people into the three available positions in the Family Plan bringing the total to four.  As each person is added, that primary person logs into, then the next player being added has to do a sub-log in with their account info to complete the process.  That means that someone has to know someone else's ID and passwords unless everyone is in the room at the same time ready to enter their own passwords.  So if you are planning to do this with friends, make sure that you fully trust them to know your business or vice versa.  Once the sign up process is complete, the personal info will not be needed again.  The Family Pack was designed for exactly that, families.  The assumption is that moms and dads know their children's email addresses and passwords.

Already have a Gold membership?  Not a problem.  If the main account holder is already in the middle of a subscription, the remaining time will be calculated into money and that will be credited towards the total.  So if I had six months left on my plan, it would cancel my existing Gold (don't worry, you don't lose any info), credit me $30 towards the Family Plan, and I would only $70 total.  If the other three members in the pack have remaining Gold memberships, they will simply tack that remaining time onto the subscription.  For example, I set mine up and the second, third and fourth person still had remaining time on their existing membership.  So Xbox cancelled them and added one month for each.  These extra months applied to everyone.  So now we all get Gold member ships for one year and three months instead of just one year.

Since one person is the main account holder, the three extra people will not be allowed to keep their own credit card information on file.  They will have to purchase Xbox points cards and use the codes to redeem them and purchase downloads that way.  It is an inconvenience, but points cards are really easy to find.  They can be purchased at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Game Stop, anywhere that you might find gaming accessories sold.

Lastly, the renewal is annual.  I didn't see any place to turn off the automatic renewal, but Xbox will send emails one month before the renewal to warn you that its about to take your money.  That should give you plenty of time to talk with people and make sure that they are still wanting another year of amazingly cheap service.

So that is the important stuff that I noticed.  There was no service interruption and the price is completely worth it.  If your family is full of gamers or you have three really trustworthy friends, this could be the perfect fit for you. 

Eric is Greek now. Welcome to the family.


Linz said...

Xbox makes it some completely inconvenient to cancel their recurring service, no matter how you pay. You have to call their customer service and get through the phone maze, then explain to someone why you want the recurring payment cancelled. Idk why they can't just let you do it online or on the dashboard.

xyourfacex1 said...

Or one person can have 4 accounts! Thats a pretty sweet deal too. Maybe a private account that you just want to game on and be antisocial. Totally.