Update: Due to overwhelmingly negative feedback, Microsoft has completely backtracked on the price increases referred to below and they will not be implemented. In addition, a Xbox Live subscription will not be required to play the multiplayer component of free to play games going forward.
In a surprising development, Microsoft Corporation, parent company of the Xbox console and the Xbox Live service, is raising the price of the Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. As a result, players across the globe have expressed anywhere from mild disappointment to angry reactions.
News is Broken through Xbox Wire
On January 22, 2021, Microsoft announced the increase to the subscription price of Xbox Live Gold. In an Xbox Wire blog post, details of the Xbox Live Gold subscription changes were presented. Referring to it as an update, Microsoft explained that the decision comes in light of the fact that no change to the Xbox Gold Live prices has been implemented in 10 years or so.
However, part of the subscribers’ agreement to the service is that the company periodically assesses the value and pricing. Microsoft said that the price change is in consideration of regional marketplaces and as an investment to the Xbox community.
Details of the Update
Following is the new Xbox Live Gold pricing:
- One Month Subscription to Xbox Live Gold = $10.99 (increases by $1)
- Three Month Subscription to Xbox Live Gold = $29.99 (increases by $5)
- Six month Subscription to Xbox Live Gold = $59.99 (increases by $20)
For those who already have an Xbox Live Gold subscription with either the six month or the 12 month durations, the price change will not be applied. If you choose to renew those subscriptions, the price will also not increase.
Furthermore, there is an additional perk for those who have these current subscriptions, if they choose to upgrade from Xbox Live Gold to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Doing so will mean that all the remaining time on Xbox Gold Live will be converted to Game Pass Ultimate benefits. For example, if there are six months of Xbox Gold Live remaining and the upgrade is made, that remaining six months is converted to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, with no increase to the price.
This latter option is a subtle strategy to convince existing subscribers to upgrade. The good news is that the Xbox Live Gold Ultimate Pass is notably cheaper than the updated standard price for only $1 for the first 3 months. However, there is a caveat that applies a cap of 36 months to the applicable Xbox Game Pass Ultimate upgrade. Moreover, the full annual price for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is $180. Although this is not a huge difference to the $120 price tag for the annual Xbox Live Gold subscription after the changes are applied, this may still affect some subscribers' decision.
Microsoft has already forwarded emails to those affected or will be affected by the change. Included with the notification is the assurance that the current customers will not experience the price increase until 45 days after the emails are received.
Expectations vs. Current Reaction of Xbox Player Base
It should be noted that Microsoft made a big change to Xbox Live Gold six months prior to all this - during July 2020, 12 month subscriptions to Xbox Live Gold were discontinued. This was also another strategy to encourage subscribers to upgrade to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service.
However, a number of Xbox players have expressed their negative reaction to the Xbox Gold Live pricing increase. On Twitter, the response is overwhelmingly negative. Many respondents note that the reasoning for the price increase is inconsistent. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that Nintendo and Sony, Microsoft Xbox’s chief rivals, have made no recent increases to the service charges for subscriptions to their services.
Others also mention the fact that games that are free to play on other platforms such as the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and 5, and Windows PC cannot be played on the Xbox contemporaries without the subscriptions. Popular multiplayer games like Fortnite and Call of Duty Warzone are examples of these.
There is also a common perception that this decision to increase is ill-timed due to the COVID-19 pandemic still in effect.
The Future of Xbox Live
Although the initial feedback to the price increase has not been positive, Microsoft is moving forward with the planned changes. Xbox Live Gold subscribers will still be enjoying the benefits of the service (2 free games a month, savings of up to 50% to select games on the Microsoft online store, etc.).
There has been no confirmation on whether or not these changes affect future games such as Hitman III, Resident Evil Village, and HALO Infinite that are coming to the Xbox series platforms.