Our industry is rapidly changing, shifting focus as the new decade begins, with PC being the dominant force in “core” gaming. Mobile gaming didn’t take off and shift us over to our phones like the analysts predicted back in the early to mid 2010s, but more and more of us are playing on PC and shifting to PC or alongside our consoles. The decline of “walled garden”-style closed-off networks is rapidly going away with the introduction of cross play and Microsoft’s own services like Project xCloud and Xbox Play Anywhere. Minecraft is really still the only game that lets you play with friends across the platforms simultaneously. This is a vision that Microsoft really wants to pursue and spread across its entire lineup of games, not just Minecraft.
Xbox Live Gold was introduced in the year that Xbox Live was introduced, it was introduced as a means to subsidize customers playing video games online. Years later, charging customers for multiplayer feels archaic and antithetical to Microsoft’s vision of a connected network that spans form factors and different areas like storefronts. Some of Xbox’s services like Games with Gold have decreased in quality for several years and the introduction of Game Pass which has Microsoft’s full backing has some of the best games from the brand for the best price. Xbox Live Gold sticks out like a sore thumb in Xbox’s vision and does not line up with the overall message.
I expected that Xbox Live Gold was going away for some time now, when and if. It doesn’t simply make sense with the approach that Xbox is taking for the next generation and what that next generation will entail over the next 7 years, charging for multiplayer is old-fashioned and is simply an anti-consumer move and creates a barrier to entry that not many people will pass either due to financial constraints or otherwise. Losing Xbox Live Gold will be a sting in the wallet, but the long term effects will prove to be worthwhile in Microsoft’s case and the endgame will be huge.
As of this writing, I feel like Microsoft would see it as a risk and a huge gamble to simply get rid of Xbox Live Gold in the same year a new console is releasing. But at the same time, Microsoft has foregone risk and becoming unpredictable at times and they can afford to be unpredictable. Xbox Live Gold will eventually go away when more of us continue to pick up Game Pass and use Game Pass to find new things to play.
The landscape is changing and paying for multiplayer is simply old-world tactics that doesn’t fit into today’s society and today’s constant changing landscape. I truly believe that Xbox Live Gold’s days are numbered, we’ll just have to wait and see if that day comes anytime soon.