On January 22, Xbox announced that they were raising the price for Xbox Live Gold. The lowest tier of Xbox Live Gold would increase by a few measly dollars but would charge $60 for six months. That meant that a 12-month subscription to Xbox Live would end up being $120. Microsoft positioned itself as the only platform that forced players to pay a fee to pay free-to-play multiplayer games. That was a further slap in the face. As expected, the move did not go over well with fans.
Well, Microsoft listened to the players and reversed course.
Not only have they reversed course, but they are giving players a feature that many users have asked for: We will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play games. This is excellent news for fans of Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite, and other free multiplayer offerings. Finally, the Xbox service will be in line with Sony and Nintendo. The change won’t happen right away; Microsoft is working on pushing out the update in the coming months.
Initially, however, they released a statement that defended the price hike. “In many markets, the price of Xbox Live Gold has not changed for years and in some markets, it hasn’t changed for over 10 years,” said the Xbox team. This is the topic that I want to talk about, though.
Microsoft hasn’t sold everyone on the value of Xbox Live Gold
Over time, there have additions to Xbox Live, but none of them have been a game-changer. Between shifting programs and the removal of popular features, it’s hard to sell a reassessment of Xbox Live Gold’s value. As of 2021, I get where they’re coming from.
Games with Gold is a service that Xbox started in 2013. It is a program that offers digital downloads of games at no extra charge for Gold subscribers. The quality of the free games varied, although there have been a lot of solid freebies. They seem to offer free games when the physical version is priced low, but that’s not always the case. Yet, there are plenty of players who don’t play the games.
Side-note: A perfect mid-tier service would be one that offers online functionality at a lower price, but not the free games or special offers/discounts.
Xbox does have the most reliable online service, in my opinion. No, I haven’t made this statement without playing most systems. In fact, I am a fan of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, to the point where the ‘console war’ makes me roll my eyes. I won’t say their service eclipses PlayStation by leaps and bounds, but I enjoy the overall presentation of Xbox Live much more. As far as outages go, I’ve found myself ripping my hair out because of both consoles.
Let’s be honest. We pay for basic functionality. We can play on Xbox’s servers (Servers don’t pay for themselves), and we get to use services we have already subscribed to like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Now. Needing to pay to use third party services has always been a ridiculous practice. Moreover, PC players also aren’t stuck behind a multiplayer paywall. While rigs can get expensive and console exclusives stop me from making the full transition, it’s something I keep in the back of my mind.
Next, I want to talk about a feature I miss. In the early days of Xbox 360, Microsoft added a Netflix feature called Party Mode. Up to eight people could join an Xbox Live party and stream the same movie. This mode puts players and their avatars in a virtual cinema room and lets them decide what to watch together. There was no need to queue videos separately. Once Microsoft upgraded the 360 dashboard in 2011, they removed the feature.
Xbox Live Gold vs The Ultimate Game Pass
Now, I understand trying to push people toward Game Pass Ultimate because it is a great value that bundles Xbox Live Gold. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes everything you get with Xbox Live Gold and over 100 games for the console and PC. I jumped onto the Game Pass to see if it’s worth keeping. It’s valuable, but I can go on with a simple Xbox Live Gold subscription. It all comes down to giving players the ability to choose how they game.
Players want to feel they have options when it comes to playing their games. While many players said, “Just get Game Pass,” there are gamers who don’t want or need Game Pass. As a video game collector, I’d rather forego playing a digital library I don’t own indefinitely and continue buying individual games digitally and physically. Others don’t want to lock themselves into another $15 a month subscription.
I feel like Microsoft wanted to save face the moment they saw the gaming community erupt with discontent. Unfortunately, they were going to make the move in the first place, considering the state of the Series X. There aren’t many exclusives, and they have marketed Game Pass as a reason to pick up the new consoles. While I enjoy the Series X, the lack of new content or utilization of its unused features made the price hike harder to stomach.
They listened to gamers, and that’s all a community can ask for, right? Eehhh. At the end of the day, Microsoft’s price increase was a calculated gamble that did not work out. Hopefully, in the future, they will more carefully weigh the needs of the gaming community and the necessity of asking us to pay more.
For now, my Xbox is still my go-to multiplayer console.