Xbox Live Gold Price to Rise: Microsoft is increasing the monthly charge for using the Xbox Live Gold service. Starting from November 1, the price will rise from £4.99 to £5.99 a month. Similar increases are being applied in the US and Canada. According to MCV, UK gamers who pay annually for the service will not be affected by the price increase, and users are being offered the chance to extend their subscriptions at the current price level.
Although access to the basic Xbox Live service is free, the Gold service is required to play online multiplayer games. Currently, rival services offered on the PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles are free, although Sony has just introduced PlayStation Plus, a premium version of its online offering, which provides early access to demos, free downloadable games, and automatic firmware updates. The price is £39.99 for a 12 month subscription.
“Since launching Xbox LIVE in 2002 we have continually added more content and entertainment experiences for our members, while keeping the price the same,” wrote official Xbox blogger, Major Nelson when announcing the price changes. “We’re confident that when the new pricing takes effect, an Xbox LIVE Gold membership will continue to offer the best value in the industry.”
Across the board, console manufacturers and games publishers are adding more functionality to their online services, with downloadable content, social networking support and seamless chat functionality becoming the norm. The extra costs of implementing and maintaining these services has led many industry giants to consider subscription charges. Electronic Arts has already implemented Online Pass, which charges purchasers of pre-owned EA Sports games for downloadable content packs. Activision, meanwhile, is thought to be considering subscription fees for online multiplayer gaming on titles like Call of Duty – although the company has denied this. Microsoft will also have the extra burden of Kinect, its forthcoming motion controller system, which offers a range of connectivity features.
Critics, however, point out that some of the key additions to the Microsoft Xbox Live infrastructure, specifically including movie downloads, are paid-for services which should therefore not affect the base subscription rate. Others are suspicious of the timing. This winter will see the release of Halo: Reach, one of the most hotly anticipated titles of the year, and one heavily focused on multiplayer gaming.
What do you think? Is this the inevitable cost of maintaining a vast online content system in an era of endless digital downloads and social connectivity? Or is it a sneaky way of boosting the coffers with Halo gold?