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Microsoft reverses Xbox Live Gold price hike — and offers a big improvement

Xbox Live Gold
(Image credit: Microsoft)

In a dramatic U-turn, Microsoft has announced it won’t be going ahead with its plans to double the price of Xbox Live Gold memberships. Not only that, but at the same time the company has announced changes that mean fewer people will actually need a Gold subscription in the first place.

Just hours after the initial price hike was announced, Microsoft backtracked in response to anger from fans. “Today was not great,” the company tweeted. “We always try to do our best for you and today we missed the mark. We hear you, and we’re reversing our Xbox Live Gold pricing updates.”

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The price hike felt like a tone-deaf move in a world where incomes are not only being squeezed, but where people are still socially distanced due to coronavirus, and where online gaming is a lifeline to isolated friends and families the world over.

In an accompanying update on the official Xbox news site, Microsoft seemed to recognize this climate, adding that “connecting and playing with friends is a vital part of gaming and we failed to meet the expectations of players who count on it every day”. 

More good Xbox Live Gold news

In addition to keeping prices static, Microsoft actually plans to go further and will be removing the need for Gold subscriptions to play free-to-play games like Fortnite, Rocket League and Warframe. “We are working hard to deliver this change as soon as possible in the coming months,” the company wrote.

That’s a positive move, but before we give Microsoft too much kudos, it’s important to highlight that this is only bringing Xbox in line with other formats. Free-to-play games are already exempt from the need to subscribe to online services on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation, with Xbox as an odd outlier. 

And there are shareholder friendly reasons why allowing free-to-play games free access is just good business: players may not pay for subscriptions, but these games fund themselves via optional micropayments, and the platform holder gets a generous cut of this.

Regardless of the reasoning, it’s a timely reminder of consumer buying power. With Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S hardware still in short supply, Microsoft likely realized it would be unwise to push people Googling “Xbox Series X stock” to change their search to “PS5 stock”. And that’s good news for loyal Xboxers due to renew their Gold subscription soon.

“If you are an Xbox Live Gold member already, you stay at your current price for renewal,” the post continues. “New and existing members can continue to enjoy Xbox Live Gold for the same prices they pay today. In the US, $9.99 for 1-month, $24.99 for 3-months, $39.99 for 6-months and $59.99 for retail 12-months.”