After a tumultuous day, Microsoft has announced that it is reversing a recently announced decision to increase Xbox Live Gold’s price. Initially, the company had planned to double the service’s price, a move that shocked players who have grown used to Microsoft’s image as the “pro-consumer” company.
Condemnation was swift, and social media blew up with complaints about the move. To make matters worse, people start to draw unfavorable comparisons between aspects of Microsoft’s service and those offered by rivals Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft has been unique because the company required players to use the paid service if they wanted to play free-to-play games online. This is at odds with Sony and Nintendo, who allow players to do that for free.
It was an unusual move for Microsoft’s gaming division, which has traditionally been extremely careful in messaging and public image. The company has since posted an announcement to the official Xbox website stating that it is reversing the decision and extending an olive branch to angry gamers. “We’re turning this moment into an opportunity to bring Xbox Live more in line with how we see the player at the center of their experience,” the statement says. The company says that you will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play games on Xbox.
The original decision is still baffling, as there is no way Microsoft would not have expected a lot of pushback from gamers. To then decide to remove the requirement for an Xbox Live Gold membership to play free-to-play games almost feels like an overcorrection. If both moves were on the cards, then simply announcing them at the same time would have been better. It is also unlikely the Microsoft lost so many Xbox Live Gold members in a day that it forced their hand.
What appears to have the plan is that an increase in the price of Xbox Live Gold would push more people towards Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate due to the perceived better value of those services. It is unlikely we will ever get a peek behind the curtain about how this decision was made, but it has certainly been a rare misstep by Microsoft in the Phil Spencer era.