Microsoft is rolling out a rebrand of its Xbox Live service to 'Xbox network'. The move is intended to differentiate the online infrastructure from the paid Xbox Live Gold membership. Nothing is changing for gamers, although there are impending improvements in the works.
Historically, Xbox Live has referred to Microsoft's online service for its consoles as a whole, with the tiered membership denoting whether players were paying for online play, or just getting the free benefits available. Xbox Live Gold allows players to play online multiplayer, as well as enjoy a selection of free-to-play games.
In a statement to The Verge (opens in new tab) , Microsoft clarified that "'Xbox network’ refers to the underlying Xbox online service, which was updated in the Microsoft Services Agreement. The update from ‘Xbox Live’ to ‘Xbox network’ is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships."
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Speaking to Eurogamer (opens in new tab), a Microsoft spokesperson explained that "Xbox Live isn't going away," adding that the company is "making ongoing adjustments to create a simpler, more descriptive messaging system for Xbox in different areas. None of these experiences or features will change as part of these updates."
Microsoft is still refining its service with the debut of its new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. It attempted to jack up the price of its Xbox Live Gold membership back in January, but dropped the rollout in the face of the backlash it received.
The Xbox Live service is already under scrutiny for the requirement of a paid membership to play free-to-play games like Fortnite. Over on PS5 and Nintendo Switch — which both require paid membership for online play — gamers don't need to pay to participate in free-to-play titles.
Happily, that's something Microsoft is planning on scrapping (opens in new tab) and that we'll see implemented in the next few months.