As we usher in a new presidential term, we expect fluctuation in the economic market. However no one outside of Seattle saw this particular fluctuation coming. On Friday January 22, xbox.com notified the public that its Xbox Live Gold users would be experiencing a price increase for the first time in over ten years.
That in itself wasn’t the (entire) issue. The staggering amount of the increase was.
The news that Xbox had doubled the price of Live Gold quickly went viral on social media, with tweets and comments from all types of Xbox fans from the little guys like me and you. Even the chief Xbox fanboys of the platform called this an egregious assault in a time of economic pandemonium. When people use video games as a method to escape a reality in which they might be economically struggling, straight doubling their cost is just about inexcusable.
Access to the online portion of Xbox gaming services had been mostly unchanged since its launch 18 years ago with minor changes. The addition of Xbox “games with Gold” gave users a multitude of free titles over the years, further increasing the program’s value. As a matter of fact, one of the upcoming month’s titles was totally “free” access to Gears of War 5, which had previously only been available to buy $60 retail or to play through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Basically, even the “free” games became twice as expensive. (Who knew twice the price of free was $120?)
Most people had assumed that the basic version of Xbox Live gold would have faded away with the introduction of Game Pass Ultimate in 2019, but it remains an option moving forward. Unclear what the exact motivation behind the increase in pricing for Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft backpedaled on the price increase on Saturday. Just one day later.
Apparently, the criticisms from fans and pundits over the past 24 hours caused them to keep the status quo and continue to provide Xbox Live Gold at the standard rate. For now anyway. We will see what happens as the year progresses.
As to my feelings regarding the price increase, with the increasing costs of labor, materials, and doing business in general over the past 20 years, Xbox Live is probably due a price increase. But not quite to double. And most definitely not at a time when there is so much unknown in the economic market.
The transitioning of presidents in the middle of a global pandemic is scary enough without you also trying to double the economic impact of being able to game online with our friends. Now is not the time, nor is doubling the price the move, to rock the boat. Luckily for gamers, though, Xbox and Microsoft are not making that move today.
It would appear that Microsoft has now thought better about the price increase, but just because it won’t be put into place today, doesn’t mean that it isn’t coming.
Perhaps they will just seek to grow their gains through different means, such as an overall price change to its first party titles. (Some next-gen games are already pushing $79.99 retail.) Maybe they will hike up the price of Game Pass Ultimate going into the busy gaming months of fall later this year.
For now, it’s hard to tell, but if Xbox is struggling to the point that it almost alienated a large portion of its online community, then I am willing to bet that there is a large change coming down the pipeline. (Who knows whether we should be excited for that.) For now, though, I will sit back and enjoy all of the marvelous games on my Xbox, while I await for this change. But more than that, I await the dozens of newly acquired first party titles that have been promised to us.
At normal retail price, of course.
What has been your take on the Xbox Live Gold price increase debacle?