An industry trend due to die is paid online multiplayer. Normalized in the early Internet era, companies convinced consumers that similar to how people pay for home Internet access, they should also pay for access to online multiplayer games. While Microsoft used to be the only company taking advantage of the practice, other gaming kingpins Sony and Nintendo saw no reason to turn down free money in the form of subscriptions for paid online services. Almost two decades after creating Xbox Live, Microsoft is now testing allowing players to play free-to-play games without having to pay for Xbox Live Gold.
Online subscription services were born in a time where consumers truly would never know how much work went into maintaining servers and low-latency game matchmaking. Microsoft, one of the largest and most wealthy tech firms on the planet, decided soon after their first system that Xbox players would need to pay in order to access online game content.
Now, almost 20 years after their maiden venture, consumers are wise to the fact that Microsoft pays almost nothing to maintain their Xbox servers. Players today still pay $60 for Xbox Live Gold, but in equal acknowledgement of the service’s ridiculously high price for product, players now also get multiple free games a month, asking why players even pay for online at all anymore when PC services like Steam and Epic Games have equal, or even more, monthly users, but don’t charge for access to online games. Microsoft seems to finally be stepping down from their no-exceptions policy to paid online.
Xbox Insiders in the Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead program are now testing a version of Xbox Live which allows players to access free-to-play games and party chats without paying for online services. This move follows industry-wide backlash against Microsoft after the company proposed a price hike for Xbox Live Gold, meaning the company has likely been on internal damage control since people have become more aware of Xbox Live’s ancient service model.
There is no estimate when the test model will hit consumer Xbox systems. As of now, Xbox gamers are still expected to pay for access to online content in games as well as access to party chats.