Rumors were flying this week that Xbox Live Gold was going away. Some pointed to a change in the terms of service, that renamed Xbox Live to Xbox Online Services. According to The Verge, Microsoft has no plans to discontinue Xbox Live Gold. At least for now.
According to the Microsoft spokesperson mentioned in the Verge article, the change to Xbox Online Services is meant to distinguish Xbox features. This new term is meant to define the core features of Xbox Live from the ability to play multiplayer games.
Whether or not Microsoft discontinues Xbox Live Gold is not the question. The real question is how will it evolve over the next few years. I envision them (like many people) moving more towards a free-to-play model for non-Game Pass games. Then most focus will be on Game Pass subscriptions. But what does this mean to a diverse gamer population?
For example, say they modify the Xbox Live Gold model as it exists today. No longer do you pay $60/year to play games online. Free games are all wrapped into Game Pass. However, you don’t have to get Game Pass to play Call of Duty online.
In the above scenario, there is a large population of gamers who will just play for free. They don’t care about all the games on Game Pass. They just like dropping in with the boys (or girls) to Verdansk. Thus, Microsoft has essentially diluted their service.
Mathematically, for every three people who don’t upgrade to Game Pass they do need one other person to upgrade. This assumes they upgrade with Ultimate, but will the value proposition be great enough to continue growing?
Same scenario, but a different group of gamers that subscribe to EA Access. Are they also going to shell out the money for Game Pass? There’s a great possibility more publishers create their own subscription service, similar to what television networks have done recently.
Yet another group to consider are the collectors. Maybe a digital copy of a game they do not own will not cut it for them. They typically like to show off their collection, and they can’t do that with Game Pass.
Look, I recently made the upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate. It’s early, but overall I’m giving it two thumbs up. I was skeptical at first as I like to physically own games. But it’s a damn great service that no other console comes close to yet. And I’m getting lazier the older I get. Do I really want to get up and change the disc again?
Microsoft has a lot to figure out, but I’m with them for the long haul. It will be interesting to see how they continue to evolve their online strategy in the coming years.
What do you want to see out of Microsoft’s online services? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to check out Generation Xbox for all the latest in the world of Xbox.