Update: Following the publication of this story, Microsoft doubled back on its plan to increase the price of Xbox Live Gold after the public backlash from the community. Prices will remain the same for existing or new members.
“We messed up today and you were right to let us know,” said the company in an update to the original announcement. “Connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.”
On top of that, Microsoft has also announced that free-to-play games will not require Xbox Live Gold to play. “We’re turning this moment into an opportunity to bring Xbox Live more in line with how we see the player at the center of their experience. For free-to-play games, you will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play those games on Xbox. We are working hard to deliver this change as soon as possible in the coming months.”
Original Story: Today, Microsoft announced that it has increased the price of Xbox Live Gold for new members. The new pricing is the result of a “value” assessment by Microsoft, noting that the service hasn't changed in price in 10 years. Xbox Live Gold is Microsoft's subscription service that allows users to play online with others and has been around since the Xbox 360 days in 2005. It also grants members “free” games each month through Games With Gold at no additional cost.
The new pricing is as follows:
- 1-month – $10.99
- 3-months – $29.99
- 6-months – $59.99
This won't go into effect for current members — at least for the time being. All existing 6-month or 12-month Xbox Live Gold members will be able to renew for the old price of $39.99 and $59.99, respectively. Though for new members, prices for the month-long plan has gone up by $1 to $10.99, while the three month plan has increased by $5 to $29.99. The year-long option seems to have disappeared entirely, though you can buy multiple 6-month subscriptions.
— Wario64 (@Wario64) January 22, 2021
To address the elephant in the room, a year-long subscription to Xbox Live now costs $120, the same price as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. In recent years, Microsoft has pushed Xbox Game Pass, an additional Netflix-like subscription service that includes a slew of games for you to download including all first-party titles day and date.
Game Pass has been praised tremendously since it came to the forefront, allowing users to play many of the best Xbox games for a monthly fee. The service also gives access to Xbox Cloud Gaming and EA Play (a similar subscription service by publisher, Electronic Arts).
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate combines the two aforementioned services — Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live — for a convenient all-in-one package. The price hike of Xbox Live Gold will further push users to simply acquire Xbox Game Pass Ultimate since they're the same price. Why would a user spend the same amount of money for less value? It's certainly an odd move that won't do the company any favors from a PR front.
On one hand, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is a fantastic deal. If you download just two Microsoft first-party games that launch within a year, the service will have paid for itself (assuming they're valued at $60 a piece). But on the other hand, new users who are only focused on playing online with friends will likely be in for a shock when they make their purchase. It's also worth noting that Xbox Live Gold is required even for free-to-play titles like Fortnite and Warzone. This means it'll still cost you at least $120 a year to play “free-to-play” titles — which is not the case on other platforms like PlayStation.
Many are predicting that after Xbox Game Pass reaches a certain membership count, Microsoft will completely eliminate the stand alone Xbox Live Gold option. It's unclear if this is the plan, but it would certainly shift its user base to adhere to the Netflix-style service — which Microsoft has been pushing towards for a while now.
In looking at the response to this news, many have expressed their disappointment with the price increase — calling it “anti-consumer.” The value of Game Pass is certainly there, and the community is arguing that there is no need to worsen one membership to make another look better.