Its been a good run, but it looks like big changes could be coming to Microsoft Xbox’s various subscription services. The first victim? The Xbox Live Gold program. The first sacrifice made to the digital services gods? The 12-month Xbox Live Gold Annual membership.
We learned initially vie a tweet by @gamespot today that it appears Microsoft had ended availability for its 12-month live gold passes.
Digging a little further, we popped in on the gamespot piece to see what else we could learn. Well, Microsoft confirmed to True Achievements that the removal of the 12- month subscription was not in error.
“…This Xbox Live Gold Annual membership is no more! It has ceased to be!”
As it stands now, there remains the option of buying Xbox Live Gold on a month-to-month basis, with a cost of $9.99 / month. Alternatively, a $24.99, three-month subscription remains available as well.
This means that on a 3-month only basis, a buyer would spend $100 / year for Xbox Live Gold. Unfortunate the removal of the 12-month membership is for those gamers who wanted to only gave the Live Gold, as the annual cost, at best, has increased about 40%.
So, why has Microsoft done this? While there has been no statement officially about the change, we can extrapolate some possible explanations based on what we do know.
First, since Microsoft launched Game Pass in 2017, the service has grown in popularity. Gamers can choose between the standard Game Pass subscription, which gives Xbox owners access to a impressive library of games from both Microsoft Studios, but also a wide range of games from other publishers. Game Pass Ultimate was introduced a bit later on, and added to the base service the inclusion of Xbox Live Gold (which is required for doing any sort of online gaming) as well as access to Xbox Game Pass for PC.
On the Horizon? xCloud
Also, Xbox’s xCloud project is expected to roll out with the introduction of the Series X console, which will be included in cost of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
So on top of all these service options, we also have Xbox Live Gold, which provides only access to online gaming, along with the inclusion regularly updated promotions which provide Gold users access to “buy” (for free) up to 4 games a month.
The reality is that there are a lot of options available to Xbox owners, and it seems reasonable that Microsoft may be starting the process of thinning the herd. By forcing users to pay 40% more a year for the same service, or transition to Xbox Game Pass for nearly the same price, they are (perhaps no so subtly) giving a que that Xbox Live Gold’s days are numbered.
It doesn’t seem we will see Microsoft declare abandon ship on Live Gold anytime soon, but can expect that as soon as enough users have transitioned to Game Pass. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Live Gold gets rolled into the Game Pass basic membership, providing access to both the Game Pass library for Xbox, as well as the online services, with a differentiated tier for users who also want access to xCloud and Game Pass PC.
Especially as digital download vs physical media becomes the choice of more and more gamers, it just feels this would be the next natural direction for the service.