Updated Jan. 23, 12:03 a.m. ET: Very early Saturday morning, the Xbox team announced that it would be rolling back the price hike on Xbox Live Gold following negative feedback. Prices will stay the same for Xbox Live Gold Members — $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, $39.99 for six months, and $59.99 for 12 months. The announcement also revealed that users will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play games on Xbox. Our original editorial is below.
After building up mountains of good will with a solid next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S launch, continued high-quality output into Xbox Game Pass, and big-name acquisitions such as the recent ZeniMax Media deal, Microsoft felt the need to remind us it is capable of truly strange decisions.
Today, after leaks and rumors, Microsoft revealed that yes, it is increasing the cost of Xbox Live Gold to double that of PlayStation’s equivalent service. So, um, what?
What’s going on with Xbox Live Gold?
Xbox Live Gold gives you access to multiplayer on Xbox game consoles, in addition to four free download-to-own titles every month, although the quality on these games is often below par, to say the least. Beyond that, Xbox Live Gold doesn’t really offer anything else.
|Subscription||Xbox Live Gold||PlayStation Plus|
|Free games online||Subscription required||Subscription not required|
PlayStation multiplayer beats Xbox on value
Would you rather pay $120 a year for access to Fortnite or $0 a year?
Particularly for parents who may be struggling to justify monthly subscriptions as it is during the pandemic, letting their kids get access to these games without additional costs is undeniably offering better value. If you’re a non-gaming parent of a youngster or someone who doesn’t really play too many games, would you rather pay $120 a year for access to Fortnite or $0 a year?
I’m not sure what Microsoft thinks Xbox Live Gold does so much better than PlayStation Network to justify this price disparity.
This is really about Xbox Game Pass
Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you access to a wide variety of benefits and is undoubtedly of a much, much higher value now than Xbox Live Gold by itself. No doubt, it is ultimately the plan to persuade gamers to move from Xbox Live Gold to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Whether that Xbox Live Gold’s paywall goes away entirely depends on how much of that cost is already factored into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and the truth is we simply don’t know whether or not that’s the case. What certainly is the case is how old-fashioned and, frankly, weird Xbox Live Gold feels in 2021, when you’re playing on merged multiplayer servers with PC and mobile gamers who, of course, don’t have to pay to play.
This feels strangely aggressive
Source: Windows Central
There’s no “good time” to do a price increase, but right now, I can’t think of a worse time.
This raises eyebrows about the health of the business in some ways. If it has to do something so drastic as to double its annual subscription over its closest competitor — who, to be fair, may well now follow suit with a similar price hike, is everything going so smoothly, as Microsoft often claims? Either way, Microsoft has given Sony an opportunity to showcase PlayStation Plus’ value or raise prices in a gentler way that helps them avoid the kind of scrutiny Microsoft is receiving in bucketloads right now.
I can’t help but wonder why Microsoft thought it was appropriate to do this in the middle of a pandemic, with record unemployment and hardship in many of Microsoft’s key markets. This also puts a microscope over Microsoft’s erroneous practice of paywalling free-to-play games. It also highlights that there is no family plan for Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass.
Finally, it also reminds us that, despite record revenues due to the boom tech companies saw over the past year while schools and workplaces shuttered, corporations can never be sated.
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