In an Xbox Wire post on January 22, the company announced that it was intending to increase the price of one month of Xbox Live Gold membership by $1, while increasing the price of three month’s membership by $5 USD. This would have brought the price of an Xbox Live Gold subscription to around $10.99 (roughly £8/AU$14) for one month, $29.99 (£22/AU$39) for three months, and $59.99 (£44/AU$78) for six months.
It was considered by many to be a rather steep increase which would bring the cost of a year’s membership to Xbox Live Gold to $120 for those who buy their memberships three months at a time, resulting in a large amount of fan backlash.
Now, having observed these reactions, Microsoft has decided not to go forward with the price increase after all.
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In fact, Microsoft has even gone one step further and announced that free-to-play games on Xbox will no-longer require Gold membership in order to play. The change won’t be immediate but it will be introduced “in the coming months” and will mean that, when it comes, Halo Infinite's free-to-play multiplayer will be truly free-to-play on Xbox.
"We're turning this moment into an opportunity"
In a statement (via GamesIndustry.biz) Microsoft said: “We messed up today and you were right to let us know. 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. As a result, we have decided not to change Xbox Live Gold pricing.
“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. For free-to-play games, you will no longer need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play those games on Xbox. We are working hard to deliver this change as soon as possible in the coming months.
“If you are an Xbox Live Gold member already, you stay at your current price for renewal. 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.”
It’s possible that the price increase was intended to make Game Pass Ultimate (which includes an Xbox Live Gold subscription in addition to access to a library of games and cloud gaming) even more tempting but such a move wasn’t appreciated by those who felt they were being forced into adopting the service.
This U-turn is pretty significant, then, and will no doubt be welcomed by Xbox users.
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.