Xbox Live Gold has been under some tough scrutiny for a couple of months now. The paid service from Microsoft that allows players to play online Multiplayer games and join/create party chats is being watched by everyone with a keen eye amidst rumors of it going away.
Earlier last month, Microsoft removed the option for players to buy Xbox Live Gold for 12 months within the store. This sparked wild speculation from insiders and people from all over the internet that the Xbox Live Gold service might actually go free. Additionally, the change would make sense too considering how it would be in line with the recent customer-friendly Xbox messaging of play anywhere without barriers.
And, despite Microsoft’s spokesperson denying the rumors of Xbox Live Gold going away, the shift may have just started already.
Players can join Multiplayer games and Parties without Xbox Live Gold
A couple of hours ago, some eagle-eyed users on Reddit noticed that they could suddenly join Multiplayer games on Xbox Live without having a Gold subscription. Not only that, but they were also able to set up and join party chats without the paid service.
However, some skeptics are still on the fence about whether Microsoft has just pulled the plug on Xbox Live out of nowhere or it is a free weekend. Free weekends for Xbox Live players aren’t something new and this could just be one of those cases where Microsoft just hasn’t announced the weekend yet.
Having said that, the change did start to happen before the clock even struck midnight on Wednesday. Usually, with free weekends like these, the change starts to happen on Thursdays. Furthermore, it would be rather strange for Xbox to have a free weekend without even announcing it to the players first.
But wait, didn’t Microsoft just deny the rumors?
Apart from the removal of the 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscription option, Microsoft has also made some other changes to the service. Earlier this week, the company updated the legal terminology within Microsoft Services Agreement and changed the name of Xbox Live to ‘Xbox Online Service’.
This change obviously added more fuel to the speculation with Xbox executives like Major Nelson avoiding questions about the subscription service during interviews as well.
However, Microsoft did issue a statement a few days ago that denied any rumors of a change coming to Xbox Live Gold. Here’s the statement:
“The update to ‘Xbox online service’ in the Microsoft Services Agreement refers to the underlying Xbox service that includes features like cross-saves and friend requests. This language update is intended to distinguish that underlying service, and the paid Xbox Live Gold subscription. There are no changes being made to the experience of the service or Xbox Live Gold.”
While this does state that there are no changes being made to the experience of Xbox Live Gold, it is still not fully conclusive as there are many alternative ways of interpreting this statement as well.
In addition to that, Microsoft doesn’t really have a robust track record of shutting rumors down. For instance, earlier last month, before the Xbox Games Showcase, some Twitter users pointed out that there was a Twitter account that was being used as a placeholder for Fable. Many people thought that this was surely the confirmation that they needed for the existence and development of Fable.
Also read: Xbox Game Pass is doing ‘very well’ according to Phil Spencer
However, the Head of Marketing at Xbox, Aaron Greenberg replied to those tweets saying that the rumors just weren’t true. In his tweet, he stated that it is common practice for companies to secure social media accounts for their IPs and this doesn’t mean that Fable is coming.
We all know how that went down though as Fable was revealed a week later during the Games Showcase and that same Twitter account went from being a dormant placeholder to becoming the active Twitter account for the upcoming Fable game.
Does it make sense for Xbox Live Gold to go away?
Xbox Live Gold is still a massive part of the Xbox ecosystem. Back in April, Microsoft reported that the service had almost 90 million active subscribers. Now, these numbers are absolutely massive and according to a lot of people, just cutting off such a big revenue stream would not make sense from a business standpoint.
However, if we are to follow Microsoft’s trajectory over the past few years and their foray into pro-consumerism, the change starts to make much more sense. Xbox is trying to evolve into an ecosystem, breaking away from the shackles of a console box in the process. A lot of Microsoft executives have stated that Xbox is no longer a console, it is an umbrella with Game Pass, PC, Console, and xCloud underneath.
So, when Microsoft wants to turn its ecosystem into a seamless experience without any barriers, having a paywall for only one segment of the market does not seem very consumer-friendly. When players on PC can play Xbox multiplayer games via the Xbox app without Gold, it would be rather unfair to lock those features behind a paywall on consoles.
Furthermore, this massive change could be the catalyst that shifts the tide in Microsoft’s favor for the upcoming console generation.
Do you think that the time has come for Xbox Live Gold to go away? Let us know in the comments below!