Where Did All The Free Xboxes Go?

Back-to-school discounts are never a bad thing, but some promotions are definitely more memorable than others.

For example, many 21-31 year-olds fondly remember getting their first iPod Nano or 8GB iPod touch for free when they purchased a Mac for college. In 2011, when Apple abruptly switched gears and began offering a free iTunes gift card instead, cries of dismay rang out among college students across the nation (or at least across Apple fan forums).

Where Did All The Free Xboxes Go? image xbox 360 controllerxbox_360_controllerAs they mourned the end of Apple’s free iPods, some found comfort in Microsoft’s free Xbox deal. Microsoft repeated the offer last summer, and free Xboxes were available to college students who purchased laptops at Best Buy, Dell, and HP too. But just as it looked like the free Xbox movement was gaining momentum, Microsoft announced their back-to-school deal for 2013. There is not a free Xbox in sight on this landing page, or on those of other popular retailers known for their back-to-school bargains.

Now it appears that 2011-2012 may go down in history as the brief era of the free Xbox for college students. Getting your free Xbox was on its way to becoming a rite of passage for every college student who needed to purchase a laptop before they headed to campus. But we’re into July now, and there have been no sightings of free Xboxes yet. Following Apple’s lead, more retailers are giving away gift cards this year instead of rebates on coveted products.

Perhaps retailers feel that giving away gift cards instead of a specific product expands their reach to a wider market. Some college students might already have Xboxes and iPods, or (gasp!) not want them.

Or maybe back-to-school season unluckily coincided with the unveiling of the new Xbox One, making an Xbox 360 seem like a lame offer. Apple got bombarded with complaints on in 2010 when they gave away an 8GB iPod that’s value was on the decline instead a coveted iPhone for free. Or maybe the head honchos at Xbox don’t want a large percentage of college students getting an Xbox 360 for free a few months before the Xbox One goes on sale.

Or it’s possible that these retailers were giving away too much. We know that even the most locked-down offers last summer were only protected by a .edu loop. While .edu loops are irritating, they’re not fool-proof; anyone can get a free .edu email address online these days without ever registering for a college course. And some offers, like Apple’s, were based entirely on the honor system. Maybe if these retailers were using SheerID to instantly verify college students online and foil the would-be fraudsters, free iPods and Xboxes for college students would still abound today.

Of course, we still have about two months until school is officially back in session. Apple just announced their back-to-school promotions this week. Maybe there’s time for a company to come through with a 2013 offer that really wows us. We’ll be taking a look at what some of the biggest names in back-to-school have cooked up for 2013, starting next week.

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