Microsoft announced today it will ease up on what Xbox Live functionality requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription, but online gaming--as it has since the original Xbox--remains behind that barrier. Unfortunately, that continues to be true even of MMOs and free-to-play games, both of which will continue to require a Gold membership.
Speaking with Joystiq, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said, "Right now we haven't changed the policy on MMOs and free-to-play games." He went on to suggest that altering that policy isn't as simple as it might seem, claiming that some games have "engineering constraints, policy constraints, and partner constraints in each one of these scenarios."
The same argument people have been making against the Xbox Live Gold requirement for services like Netflix extends to subscription-based MMOs, including The Elder Scrolls Online. Bethesda's MMO, like Netflix, carries a monthly subscription fee, yet an additional fee in the form of Xbox Live Gold will be required to play the game when it's released on the Xbox One later this year. Bethesda has said it's trying to get the fee dropped, but so far to no avail.
Free-to-play games are arguably affected even more by the Xbox Live Gold requirement, as it handicaps them by limiting the audience that can access them. GameSpot has reached out to Bethesda and World of Tanks maker Wargaming.net to see if any progress has been made in shedding the Gold requirement for their respective games.
Some of the moves made by Microsoft today--namely, dropping the Gold requirement for entertainment apps like Netflix and offering an Xbox One without Kinect for $399--appear to be attempts to erase the advantages the PlayStation 4 currently has. If the Gold requirement remains in place, that would be one area the PS4 continues to have an edge, as free-to-play games (like DC Universe Online) and subscription-based MMOs (like The Elder Scrolls Online) don't require a PlayStation Plus membership in order to be played.
|Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX|
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