It's Time For Xbox Live Gold To Be Free

If you didn't catch Microsoft's press conference at E3 today, here's a brief recap: game, game, XBOX LIVE CONTENT STREAMING SPORTS MUSIC APPS, South Park game, exeunt. The message was clear: streaming services aren't just the sideshow anymore; they've got a spot in the main tent right alongside Master Chief.

As of today, the Xbox 360 is officially one of the best set-top boxes in the world. So you know what? It's time to start acting like one.

Hulu Plus. Netflix. MLB.tv. Amazon Instant Video. Last.fm. Crackle. ESPN. Even before today's additions of NBA League Pass and NHL streaming, Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold offering more than held its own against top-tier streaming boxes like Roku and Apple TV. The console costs twice as much as those two, sure, but it's also a video game/DVD player and a Windows Media centre powerhouse. Totally worth it.

But you know what's downright unjustifiable? The fact that Microsoft charges 10 bucks a month (or $US60 for a full year) to access any of it. All that money, just for the privilege of paying another $US96 each for Netflix and Hulu Plus, $US125 for MLB, $US79 for Amazon Prime. And it raises the question: Why would I go to the club that has a cover charge when there are three right next door -- each almost exactly identical -- that'll let me in for free? Xbox 360 might offer great streaming, but it's also got a hell of a moat.

Yes, your Xbox Live Gold membership includes online gaming. And Microsoft is totally within its rights to charge for that; it's an added value experience unique to its ecosystem. That's worth something. And a few years ago, playing FIFA or Halo or Madden online is why most people signed up for Xbox Live Gold in the first place. Back then, charging everyone a fee to get in on the online action -- and throwing in a couple of apps on the side -- made sense.

But the calculus has changed. Microsoft is so focused on making the Xbox the beating heart of your home theatre, it's even convinced Comcast to stream its on-demand offerings through it. You can watch ESPN live, 24 hours a day, without ever signing out of your Xbox Live account. And when SmartGlass arrives later this year, you're going to route every piece of content you own through your Xbox.

All of which is wonderful. It's a beautiful future, and one that's never going to happen if Microsoft keeps a velvet rope up around all those wonderful services. It's frustrating enough to pay once for things that used to be free. Xbox Live Gold makes you pay twice.

So let's try this, Microsoft: Forget subsidizing a cheaper Xbox with a more expensive Xbox Live plan. Go ahead and charge a monthly fee for online gaming. Do it in Xbox Live points or yuan or mustard green bushels for all I care. But leave the services your customers are already paying good money for -- and that every other set-top box serves up for them free -- out of it. Catch up with the present before you try to plant your flag on the future. Do that, and my living room is yours.

Or don't! There's a perfectly nice gentleman over to your right who's more than happy to give Hulu Plus away. Instead of, you know, charging me for it twice.

WATCH MORE: Xbox News


Comments

    The least they could do is turn off all the goddamn ads that bombard you all over the dashboard if you're paying for Gold.

      This^ One thing that has Shat me as a paying Gold member since the beginning..

      gives it character i like looking at the trailers and giveaways i got free avengers themes and pics from the ads

      Ten billion times this. Advertising should be instead of a subscription fee, not on top of it.

      It's the typical cycle... Subscriber based benefits, then ads ontop of subscription fees... Happened with Foxtel, happened with Xbox Live, and will likely happen with Sony's in game advertising that's coming.

      What ads? The ads telling you that Game of Thrones is on Foxtel, there is a new game demo out or there is a sale on arcade games? Or that you can get free stuff for watching a movie preview?

      It's not like they are trying to sell you steak knives.

    I wonder... if Sony had ports of Gears of War and Halo, would there be much else keeping Microsoft fans on X-Box? I still can't believe they charge you for connecting online, on top of everything else. Sony and soon, Nintendo, have the most exclusive titles, next to the same third party games. On those systems you don't have to deal with complex menus, a 'red ring of death' or extreme prices. I often hear those few exclusives are the only things keeping players on an X-Box 360.

      I'm all on-board if Sony's next console isn't gradually stripped of its features over the years to follow, the online service is drastically improved, and their 'ultimate' version of the release-date console is devoid of cheap soldering that'll inevitably crack in 3 years, just after warranty.

      I pay for Gold purely because the online gaming experience is so much better than on the PS3, playing games with your friends on some PS3 titles is just messy (eg, playing GT5 with friends requires sending lobby codes and stuff), on 360 it all works so much better.

        yeah, the 360's party system is infinitely better. unfortunately it wasnt enough to keep me on their system.

        I've never understood this argument, I've played PS3 and 360 online, they're identical in terms of performance.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

        You're not the time, Kent.

    Seriously....What ads?

    i get bugger all when i'm on xbox live

    I bet what happens in actuality is that they INCREASE the cost of Gold.

    Newsflash, Microsoft love money!! Zero chance of them foregoing the $10 a month from their 18 million gold members. Its why they continue to be profitable when theyre competitors arent.

      Newsflash, Sony also loves money. Only problem is they don't know how too. How far are they into debt, just a few billion last check..

      News Flash Sony loves money too. But don't know how to make it. How many billion in the red are they now?? I rekon if Sony could go back, they would charge for their online service. They now know it costs big dollars to run an online service and need to regain those dollars some how. PSN plus was introduced to help regain those costs, but that ain't helping. Now throwing more free games in that service is a last ditch effort. They are getting desperate to make the smallest profit..

    This guy makes a good point - if they wanna make themselves a set-top box they have to do away with the charges.

    Also if the Wii U does well with with online this gen it might make a paid online service untenable, not that $50 a year is much, but it the double charging, the spot passes, the DLC, the Australia Tax - it feels like they're trying to nickel and dime us at every turn.

    Xbox has the best network because of maintenance ( which isn't free). Sony and Nintendo will never be able to touch the kind of service Microsoft has without charging a fee.

    Gold users should Not see the ads. Though it's not like I care too much; PS3 and Steam gamer; I don't have to endure such crap.

    Or they could just make everything except online gaming available on Xbox Live Silver.

    This isn't the first time this piece, or one like it, has come up, and I doubt it will be the last.

    Xbox Live Gold I expect to go free (or just cheaper) with the release or announcement of the next Xbox. I don't see them doing it any sooner than that.

    It makes me laugh that Microsoft charge you to play on P2P servers. It's not like MS hosts dedicated servers for their games, there really never was any justification in charging for Gold. I have both consoles and the PS3 always has the potential to have a simple online setup like the 360. In reality it doesn't cost much to implement a simple, streamlined online method of playing games.

    This is evidenced by the fact that PC games are cheaper AND excluding some MMOs, playing online is totally free and SIMPLE. Console owners just aren't tech savvy enough to realise this, so MS continues to take advantage of the ignorance of the average Joe.

    Wake up people, you're kidding yourselves if you think Gold is value for money. All stuff you pay for is free everywhere else.

      You're aware that XBoxes is the only console that charges for online play, right? So all those "tech savvy" PS3 (and even, to some extent, Wii) owners have been enjoying their free, simple online play for many years now, just like PC users.

    My Gold subscription expired and I don't plan on renewing it. If I want to play online I can still do that on PS3.

    I agree, the price for XBL and MP in general sucks in Australia.

    I mean, you already pay for your internet connection, then XBL, then MP and now you have to pay for online passes.

    Before you know it we'll have to put a gold coin every time we turn on the damn console.

    You can get a full year of XBL for around $50 AUS almost year round. There are plenty of sites that sell and email the codes to your email within minutes. Not to mention MS points always go on sale and are also cheaper year round online. Never, ever, ever pay store retail for XBL subscriptions or MS points, and if they offer you the dashboard deals make sure after you sign up you instantly disable the automatic renewal on your account.

    I think my account is currently good for a few years into the future, and with the combination of getting luck at the DSE sale earlier this year and using online code services I've spent around the same amount as a retail 12 month sub.

    You have to remember XBL is pretty much the premium console service. COD players favour XBL for a majority of reasons (early access to DLC being a key one) and a lot of developers are starting to offer that early DLC for XBL which can be a huge decision maker for a lot of gamers.

    I own a PS3 and I've very rarely used it for online play. It's free but the old saying rings true. "you get what you pay for". I loved Uncharted but trying to play that game online was a nightmare for me.

    At the end of the day if you know where to buy XBL it will set you back around 91 cents a week (let's say $1). A reduction in price would be great although unnecessary for me, but I question what would happen to the service if it went completely free.

      Im with you,

      I have both and rarely use the PS3, although the DVD playback on the ps3 is better than the xbox as i have had many a DVD not play on xbox (because of how its made/authored) that plays nicely on ps3.
      as for online I have found the xbox one better in my opinion. I really do not notice the adds.

      One thing I would really like to change is getting rid of the X box points system. utterly unnecessary, the PS3 is better with this respect as its a simple dollar value. no need to go buy arbitrary points just pay what is listed and good to go.

    Micro-Softs insitsance of charging for on-line play has made me buy many multi platform games on PS3/PC, in fact I would estimate that the the lost revenue from these roaylties would be more than $50 a year and whats more will be a major factor in my futre console buying decscions.
    Also several friends have asked me what console to buy as I have both and I steer them towards playstation, particuly if their a light to moderate user like myself.Part of this attitude comes from being an old school PC gamer and I have yet to pay for a map-pack either.
    I dont care about cross game chat,friend lists or achievments/gamer score/trophies Etc.Or the percieved "better experience".
    I just want to play the occasional frag-fest without having to find my credit card on my own console with my own games using my internet connection, I need another exspence to do so like I need another hole in the head.
    There are 3 things I dont pay for water,pussy and online gaming,Why?Because they all come for free.

      Yeah but if you do pay, you get the premium product. Water, pusssy and online gaming.

      You don't pay, you get the same old water everyone drinks full of impurities, you get the same old tired clapped out pussy you've been banging for years, and you end up with the unbearably shitty PS3 online gaming.

    Yeah, Microsoft are way too money-hungry to let gamers play online for free. They haven't had a hit product in years, so they have to charge Xbox users for their revenue.

    Disagree.

    I think charging for Xbox Live makes the service better and I'm happy to pay for Gold. I pay for PS+ as well in the hope that the funds will go into improving it. I've been over this before on here. The PSN is lacking in so many areas. I'd love it to have parties and party chat like Xbox Live. I have to bloody Skype my friends to chat while playing games like Dark Souls.

    Microsoft did an 10th anniversary video on Xbox Live and where all the Xbox Live funds go. They go to running and improving the service. This is the very reason why it is light years ahead of the PlayStation network.

    Everyone wants stuff for free, it's just that free stuff is generally shithouse.

    Move to Australia. You will pay for Live Gold AND not get any of those other tertiary services.
    Cry me a river, American.

    It is not the cost of subscriptions that makes me annoyed. It is the fact that it takes up huge amounts of your internet amount. I bought an Xbox for my grandson (11) and now I find that unless I increase my amount or increase the cost I have run out of internet half way through the cycle. I just wish it was not so hungry, that is all.

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