Xbox Live Golds Price Hike is a Bizarre Move From Modern Pro-Consumer Microsoft

Xbox Live Gold’s Price Hike is a Bizarre Move From Modern, Pro-Consumer Microsoft

Matt Lorrigan

[Update: Microsoft has now reversed their decision to increase the price for Xbox Live Gold - make sure to read the full details in our news article here.]

Microsoft has today announced a rather hefty price hike for its long-running Xbox Live Gold membership, a move that feels like it’s arrived right out of left-field. For anyone looking to sign up for online play on Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S in the near future, you’re suddenly looking at $120 a year at minimum for Xbox Live Gold, double the $60-a-year price tag available less than a year ago (before Microsoft axed the 12-month membership entirely in November). And quite honestly, we think it’s a bit of a rip off.

It’s a move that seems so out of character for the modern Xbox we know and love - after all, when was the last time we called anything Microsoft did “a rip off” or “anti-consumer”? Xbox Series X’s price tag ended up lower than most of us expected, Xbox Series S offered budget-conscious players a next-gen option at an affordable price, and Xbox Game Pass continues to offer a ridiculous number of games to play for what is now a lower monthly price than Xbox Live Gold. 

This new pricing feels unnecessary and incredibly out-dated, and if anything, it feels like Microsoft has taken a step back with this latest move, especially when compared to Sony’s equivalent in PlayStation Plus. Both subscriptions basically offer the exact same thing - the ability to play games online, and a selection of “free” titles offered monthly - and PlayStation Plus will now be half the price of Xbox Live Gold, coming in at a cool $60 a year, with PS Store sales often offering it for even less, at that.


Even when the two subscriptions were the same price, it could be argued that PS Plus offered up a more consistently good selection of titles each month. That is, of course, a case of personal preference, but we were often far more enamoured with PlayStation’s monthly offerings than we were Games with Gold, and now at double the annual cost, Xbox Live Gold simply isn’t looking like it’s worth the money. However, if you’re a gamer who’s even remotely interested in online gaming, then Xbox Live Gold is also an essential purchase, and with COVID-19 lockdowns keeping people indoors and away from loved ones, online gaming is offering people crucial connections amid a global pandemic. Given that context, it’s hard to imagine a worse time that Microsoft could have picked to double the price of its online paywall.

We also can’t forget about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Increasing the price of Xbox Live Gold, while keeping Xbox Game Pass Ultimate at $15 a month, has the converse effect of making XGPU look like even more of a bargain than it once did, packaging together a $120-per-year Xbox Game Pass subscription with a (now) $120-per-year Xbox Live Gold subscription for just $15 a month, or $180-a-year.

On top of that, the huge selection of games on Xbox Game Pass can make each month’s Games with Gold feel even more underwhelming. Just look at the recently announced titles for February, which is headlined by Gears 5. That’s all well and good if you don’t own it, but if you’re also a Game Pass subscriber, then you’re not really gaining anything there either? And it’s not the only example we’ve had over the past year or so. Games With Gold, and therefore Xbox Live Gold as a whole, is less appealing right now than it ever has been.


Call us cynical, but you can’t help but feel that Microsoft is intentionally bumping the price up to convert people to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. After all, if you’re now paying a whopping $10 a month (minimum, $11 if you’re paying monthly) for online play and the possibility of a good free game or two each month, why not just bump that up $5 to get access to all of Xbox Game Pass on top of that via the Ultimate subscription? 

Pushing people onto Xbox Game Pass certainly appears to be Microsoft’s main focus this generation - possibly even more so than selling units of the Xbox Series X|S themselves - but making an Xbox Live Gold membership less attractive in the process is a strange way to go about it. It’s the least consumer friendly move that Microsoft has made in a long time, and it begs the question: why not just ditch Xbox Live Gold entirely and make multiplayer free? Why not just offer Xbox Game Pass Ultimate as the one-stop-shop for free games, rather than deter new subscribers with an overpriced membership? It’s just bizarre.

For most of us who were already on an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, this new change won’t make a difference. It appears that players with existing six and twelve-month memberships won’t be charged extra, even when they renew, and big Philly Spencer has already said that Microsoft isn’t looking to jack up the price of Game Pass anytime soon. But it’s a bizarre move that offers really poor value for money for new or returning subscribers, especially when comparing Xbox Live Gold to PS Plus or even to Nintendo Switch Online, which is something I never thought I'd say. We’re hoping this consumer-unfriendly attitude isn’t something Microsoft sticks with going forward - it’s certainly not a good look for them.

  • Ya I don’t see 10-15 a month for service a big deal. Netflix charges like 18 and I use it maybe a couple hours a week. I pay 15 for Xbox and play 60+ hours a week while talking with friends. Plus gamepass alone saves me hundreds a year on games I would of purchased for full price. Honestly people there is no reason to complain when a monthly service costs the same as a single McDonald’s meal.
  • I'm hopeful the bad PR for this is minimal. Phil Spencer has made a lot of positive brand image progress over the last few years and it's common for people to ignore the good to focus on the bad. It seems fairly obvious this move puts them in line with the price of many other streaming services across a wide variety of media (to the poster's point above me), and this is the first change in base Gold price that I can recall.

    I expect this is also an attempt to reduce the difference in Gold & GPU cost in hopes to ease more people into the latter. It's business, not everyone will be happy, but i see no reason to be upset and hope that people don't miss the forest for the trees.
  • It seems clear that MS wants their subscribers on GamePass instead of Gold. Except for the inevitable horrible short term PR, it's a good long term strategy. Almost everyone will see the value of GPU and fork over the extra $5.

    Having said that, I do believe that attempting to compare Xbox Live to streaming services like Netflix is misguided and ultimately useless. A Netflix subscription entitles the user to watch any one of thousands of titles for one monthly fee. No other purchase is required. To play one game on Xbox Live, you need to spend $300-$500 on a unit to use the service and then purchase any games you want to play. The Xbox Live fee is to use a game and a console that you already paid for. It's comparing apples to fish.
  • oh boy i can already tell this will bite them in the arse
  • @4
    oh it will. But this will ultimately be beneficial for them. Bad pr moves like this is how you pull a companies head out of their ass. Take for example, sonys reaction towards cross platform. If that pr hell had never happened, the playstation walled garden would still be present today.
    I can see one of two things happening from this shitstorm
    A. XBOX finally allows f2p games to be allowed without a sub
    b. Xbox gold as we know it basically desolved, all the benefits minus online is shifted to gamepass.
    both moves could serve to line the corporations pocket while making them smell like roses.
  • Great now it will cost $11 a month to play game demos and so called free to play games. All this will do is stop people playing games or worst getting the console chipped.
  • Yeah MS can take a long walk off of a short pier. They're just doing this to force/bully people onto Gamepass.

    I'm going to buy a few 12 month codes from Ebay while they still exist.

    Yeah forget the short pier stuff, MS can fuck off.
  • Fuck all you idiots defending this. This is an incredibly scummy move by MS. Doing this a few months after a new console launch pretty much forces everyone who just bought the Series X to either go to GP or shove out double for Gold. That $1 for Ultimate Upgrade was a fucking scam so now you can't go back to a Gold account (current Gold subscribers will, at least for now, not be affected by the price hike)

    And meanwhile PC multiplayer is free, PS+ is $60/year (with way better free games each month), and Nintendo Online is $100/year.

    Fuck Microsoft. I wasn't sure if i'd get the Series X or jump over to PC and this just made the decision for me. I don't use GP. I don't have enough time to play on the games on there. With this move Microsoft has made it obvious they don't want people that don't subscribe to GP on their platform anymore. It is their sole focus now and they don't care how much they alienate people who don't want it, no matter how long they've been in the Xbox ecosystem.

    Fuck you if you defend this and fuck Microsoft.
  • Let's not forget what this company tried to do with the xbox one. They were forced to do a complete 180 degree turnaround on their policy because of the backlash. I wouldn't call them "pro-consumer" at all. Also people need to realize that the gamepass model is just going to encourage games with a quality on par with mobile garbage. Filled with micro transactions.
  • Also please bring back the ability to downvote so I could create 100 accounts and downvote comment #1. That kind of "shrug it's only the cost of a happy meal" mentality allows big business to walk all over its customers.
  • Doesn't bother most of the hardcore gamers at all i wouldn't think, most of them already have ultimate but i can see why the people that haven't upgraded yet would be pissed. To be honest though even at the price before gold is still a rip off, ultimate is the way to go people are just going to have to suck it up because ultimate at less than netflix a month is a great deal.
  • And now they've reversed course, so no price changes for 6 month and 12 month plus making it so f2p games don't need Gold.
  • October last year - Phil Spencer: No Price increase's coming
  • @I.maciver He was talking about game pass, not gold.
  • Well that was a dramatic u-turn.
  • Yeah, might want to update this article now.
  • Course Corrected. Breath easy people. Microsoft is gonna keep it affordable.

    It's good to play together.
  • @Raggle101 you have no idea what your talking about, all Microsoft tried to do was have the console online all the time which is what ended up happening with xbone and ps4 anyway, the idea was just a bit before it's time and now it's a mainstay on every console. Also saying gamepass is or will be full of crap games and micro transactions? have you seen the list of games on there at the moment?
  • darth straya, you have no knowledge of the past, nor any vision for the future.
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