Xbox Live: No Longer the Gold Standard

Why Xbox Live Gold should not return in the coming generation.

My resolve weakens whenever a new Halo is released. The lure of slaying irascible hunters with three like-minded Spartans by my side trumps the lone supersoldier experience, so I willfully ignore the greedy means that make such a feat possible. But I can no longer run from the harsh truth of reality like so many foolhardy grunts. Xbox Live Gold is an antiquated dinosaur that no longer fits within this industry. It's an exploitive service that takes advantage of people's innate desire to connect with others, charging significant money ($59.99/year, or $9.99/month) for features given away for free on competing platforms. As the next generation approaches, it's time for Microsoft to shelve this nickel-and-diming venture once and for all.

It's a concept that people who are immersed in gaming take for granted, but sounds downright crazy when viewed from a different angle. Shelling out your hard-earned cash for Halo 4 doesn't get you everything; you also need to pony up for a Gold subscription if you want access to the lion's share of content you paid for. The much-heralded multiplayer mode is completely closed off, as is playing through the campaign online with friends. Even Spartan Ops, which can be enjoyed alone if you pay Microsoft's subscription fee, is inexplicably kept away from people who don't part with some extra money. This is a ridiculous barrier that doesn't exist on any other system or in any other medium. Microsoft's ardent desire to force people to pay more money means that you might not get to experience the entire game that you just purchased.

Years ago, Xbox Live Gold offered a novelty well worth its asking price. Although online gaming was widely available (and completely free) on PCs, the ability to play with faraway friends and strangers had yet to enter living rooms. Slowly but surely, consoles began to tap into the online ecosystem. The Dreamcast created a mild ripple with its built-in 56K modem and the peep-smashing joy of Phantasy Star Online. The GameCube and PlayStation 2 had a few online games as well, but because you had to buy a broadband adapter, connectivity became another peripheral failure. It wasn't until the Xbox that online gaming on your television became a viable entertainment option. I didn't think twice about shelling out a few extra dollars each month to engage in the fiery dogfights of Crimson Skies or the kinetic card battles of Phantom Dust.

Gold is an exploitive business practice that should disappear into the ether when the next generation arrives.

Microsoft's strong commitment to online gaming continued with the Xbox 360. The console's operating system was designed with connectivity in mind, so with only a few button taps you could view what your friends were playing, invite them to chat, or check out their achievements. Slowly but surely, the Xbox 360 became the go-to system for online-focused games and the streamlined accessibility of the online infrastructure went a long way toward establishing that trend. Microsoft's competition out of the gate lagged far behind. It took years for Sony to upgrade the PlayStation 3's firmware to a level competitive with the Xbox 360, and the tedious friend code system (and outdated visuals) of the Wii made it a weak opponent to the juggernaut in Redmond. When the Xbox 360 became the first device to stream Netflix movies to your television, the extra cost of Gold was a no brainer.

But Microsoft's huge advantages are now distant memories.

Aside from cross-game chatting and invites, the PlayStation 3's online features go toe-to-toe with the Xbox 360's, and just about every other aspect of the premium experience is made redundant by free equivalents on other systems. Non-game applications such as Hulu and Amazon Instant Video offer the same experience on a variety of devices, and Microsoft's apps for such services don't always compare favorably to its competitors. Netflix is not only available on Sony's console, but the PlayStation 3 is now the number one source of television streaming. That's a vital piece of information. Even though there are more Xbox 360s out there, more people use the PlayStation 3 as their primary source of Netflix streaming. Could it be because Microsoft banished this service behind a pay wall?

When you dig deeper, you see that Sony has a sizable advantage in some areas. For instance, if you love sports, ESPN has an app on the Xbox 360. But league passes for the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB are available on the PlayStation 3, which is a major coup. Of course, all of these streaming apps require you to pay extra--it's not as if you can watch Netflix movies on your PlayStation 3 without subscribing to the service--but that's unavoidable. Microsoft is limiting the potential user base of these products by forcing people to dole out money for Gold while paying the cost for these services as well. And to what end? There's no benefit to using the Xbox 360 to watch Netflix over the PlayStation 3, so you're merely paying for the right to give Microsoft more money. It's a ridiculous premise that's ultimately urging people to turn off their Xbox in favor of Microsoft's biggest competitors.

Contrast Microsoft's approach with Gold to Sony's premium plan. PlayStation Plus requires a yearly fee of $50 ($10 less than MS' plan), but offers a much different package. Sony doesn't erect a nonsensical barrier for those who would rather avoid a costly subscription fee. Rather than charge extra for features that should be standard, such as online gaming and useful apps, Plus makes the PlayStation 3 and Vita's wide assortment of games more readily accessible. Downloadable games sometimes become available earlier or cheaper for those who pay for the extra service, and certain games are completely free. Now you're rewarded with a copy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss or Final Fantasy Tactics for no charge, or get to play Journey a week before everyone else. It's a system built on giving rather than withholding. Plus nurtures the gaming audience while Gold segregates it.

The reason why Microsoft insists on using this draconian pricing method is clear: They make money from it. But it's time that customers take precedence over coins. Cordoning off entire sections of a game from people who paid good money for that product is indefensible, and Microsoft is only hurting itself by forcing people to go through pay hoops to access non-gaming apps. Although my resolve weakens whenever a new Halo is released, I recognize that Gold is an exploitive business practice that should disappear into the ether when the next generation arrives.

Written By

Discussion

3445 comments
eden86
eden86

microsoft won't even allow me to watch FREE streaming apps like crackle and twitch (who only require an internet connection for their services) unless I fork out cash for microsoft. I obviously refused to be swindled by this scam. Day by day, microsoft is making my decision to switch to sony easier and easier, that's if sony hasn't taken up these scams for themselves already.

interrasteral7
interrasteral7

How ironic it is to read this article, since Sony is doing similar things the Xbox 360 did with online gaming. Now Sony is falling in the path with the Playstation 4 online gaming except with no cross party chat, etc. and by making you pay to play online like the Xbox 360 online gaming. Ahhhhhh Sony, how you destroyed my decision to think about buying the Playstation 4.

BlindedSunlight
BlindedSunlight

Wonderful article. Finally someone that see's xbox is stupid and is a complete scam. 

I could never support Xbox. Everything about it I hate and is lower quality than the competition. 

(1) Controllers are just as expensive as PS3 yet no blue tooth/gyroscope or recharge batteries. Add $20 for batteries making each $70. Freaking $70! 

(2) No blu ray (or 3D blu ray for that matter)

(3) no browser for 8 years

(4) no wifi for 5 years add $100

(5) RROD happened - 55% failure for 5 years

(6) Best exclusives on PC (Halo, Gears of War, ME1, Left4Dead, Battlestations, Alan Wake, All the Fables

(7) No free exclusive content like PS3 (Assassins Creed, Mass Effect 2, Battlefield, Red Dead Redemption, Mafia 2, LA Noire, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Far Cry 3 - all the big names). 

(8) Xbox only has pay to play, timed exclusive DLC. DLC everyone will get and DLC Xbox gamers paying for xbox live still have to pay for. 

(9) Xbox live gold members still have to help pay for servers via paying for online passes. 

(10) Xbox live gold is a total rip off. It literally only "allows" you to access basic features no one else in the world charges for (browser, streaming services, online play & cross game chat). Basically the console is a brick without xbox live which is $300 every 5 years. 

(11) As if Xbox live wasn't enough free money to M$ they put ads on your home page. The only ones to do that too. 

Even if I could get over all that I would still have to get over past scams: Made Halo 2 for PC Vista only trying to force upgrades & dropped all service/support/games on orig. xbox as soon as 360 was here forcing paying xbox live customers to upgrade. 

Oh and then I would have to get over the fact that M$ charges as much for their console as PS3 yet lacks everything stated above. 

None of this is fanboy rant, these are pure facts that everyone seems to just overlook. I would not be able to look at myself in a mirror if I ever supported xbox. 

doomsteel
doomsteel

It's been 3 months since i was a gold member and i don't miss much at all. I noticed xbox live has a permanent 40% off sale going, well maybe not permanent but it,s been up for around 3 weeks now.

Mynemo
Mynemo

I have both consloes and recently stopped paying for gold on xbox,with ps3 I have so much more (lots of free games),still love xbox as my home gamestation,but i;m not paying for nothing.

Rexmeridiem
Rexmeridiem

Jesus -facepalm- FUCKINGS KIDS! I pay 33 euro for 12 month Live gold. Did I die or broke? No. -_-' get a job then you won't whine. 

awoody17
awoody17

Great article Tom. Well said.

l34052
l34052

MS only get away with their practices cause people let them and keep on paying, they only have themselves to blame. If everyone suddenly dropped the console and migrated over to the ps3 en masse how long do u think it would be before ms made some changes...

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

There are features that currently require Xbox Live Gold that don't make any sense. Examples: YouTube, Internet Explorer, Netflix, CinamaNow, Hulu+

Vegeta-sama
Vegeta-sama

Sony doesn't charge for their service because they CAN'T! They were to far in the hole and needed the advantage of PSN being free and they didn't offer a fraction of the services that came standard in XBL... they still don't. If you don't think Sony salivates everytime Microsoft announces the BILLIONS of dollar of revenue that XBL brings in then you're a fool. It's highly likely you'll be paying for PSN come next gen if they want to reach the same level as XBL. And lest you forget this is a business and it's about making money...  Live has always cost money and it will always cost money... they haven't changed anything it's only their competitors who are so late to the game they have to add the incentive of "Free" to get people playing... and lets be honest... nothing is free... someone is paying for that service and they are probably unhappy about doing so... it does cut into Sony's bottom line that's already way to low.

chj915
chj915

indeed, i agree with the point within this article. Microsoft Gold membership seems to FORCE gamers to pay for what is supposed to be standard such as game demo, while PS PLUS gives extra content including a number of FREE games or cheaper deal on purchasing full games. 

however, by comparing two console membership service, it is notable that Microsoft has better software performance comparing to PSN. It takes only few clicks to download content from the market rather than on PSN. my experience on PSN is "slow". I wish and hope PlayStation can improve from their platform and software engine level whereas Microsoft should consider improving their marketing strategy and membership structure.

vindog800
vindog800

If you’re an adult gamer and own both systems it will only take you about a week before you understand why xbox live Gold service is the best $60 you will ever spend. I gladly pay my $60 to Microsoft not because Lives’ features are so superior to PS3, quite the contrary, as you stated, everybody else is more or less on the same level of functionality. I pay because it allows me to have an evening of gaming without my head exploding and tossing my controller out the window. You have it backwards, the PS3’s free online service is its downfall not its advantage. Because it’s free every tween aged kid with the ability to turn on a switch is online with the sole purpose of making my online gaming experience an absolute nightmare. (True Story) Hey its 11pm lets play Fifa 13, not again, it seems that out of the 22 players playing in the game one of them is a 12 year old and yes he’s playing goalie. Were now 8 minutes in and he has the ball again, wow what are the odds, that’s the 3rd consecutive time he has accidently turned around and kicked the ball into his own net. Bad luck on that one lets race instead, I’m doing good, leading a field of 8 and it’s the last lap, what the? Somebody is driving the opposite direction, it’s a 13 year old this time and he’s collided with me head on, from first to last in an instant, that was fun. I’m angry now but I’m going to try one more time, I need to kill something so the newest First Person Shooter seems in order. Okay lobby filled, game starting, I have 3 teammates and hopefully will give our opponents a good battle. How am I dead already, our opponents haven’t even shown up on the screen yet, you got to be kidding; all of my teammates are team killing. Enough, back to Xbox Live. Believe it or not because you have to invest $60 on Live to play he vast majority of players actually want to play the game. Every idiot with 20 minutes to spare and the need to abuse a room full of strangers need look no further than the PS3, and the best part, it’s free.

theKSMM
theKSMM

As someone who plays across more than one console, being able to save games to the cloud is almost worth the price of admission to XBOX Live Gold alone.  It's one of my favorite features of PlayStation Network Plus too.

Once or twice a year in the U.S., GameStop and Amazon will have a sale on one-year XBOX Live Gold cards. The price will be down from $60 to around $40.  If I'm paying attention, I get my cards then.  It drops the price from about $5 per month to less than $3.50 and less than the price of PSN Plus.  I recommend keeping your eyes open for these sales if you're interested in XBL Gold.

Also, the PSN requires you to be logged on for Netflix, Hulu, and everything else too.  It's just that their equivalent of XBL Gold log-ons is free, so nobody complains.  But I've had times when I couldn't watch Netflix on the PS3 because PSN was down.  Don't blame Microsoft for other companies' policies for apps on their consoles.

Finally, I repeat, I wish that XBL Gold was free, but I'd rather pay for it than see it disappear.  Sony is losing money badly right now, enough that I fear that they might pull the plug on any new consoles after the PS4.

smackdowner360
smackdowner360

Even though i agree live should be free and may be free next gen ill still stick with it.Id rather do that than play very few medicore games on a dying PC.Yea the PC market took a hit last year.It want be long till its on life support again.Also there is no way id go to sony with cheap free online service that people can just come in and get your account information.Now sony has a agreement that you sue them if someone seals your info from them.Ive been a member of live since 2003 and never had 1 damn problem.Still MS needs to drop the price they are making a killing off of the consoles and games.

Death_Masta187
Death_Masta187

its funny I made these same arguments 8 years ago when the 360 came out. If MS knows how to do anything wright its how to nickle and dime their customers. I don't blame them for it. just look at the sheer amount of people who gladly pay that each month. If I know MS they will increase the price on their next console. We will see the same excuse they used when they jacked the price of games up by $10. 

Ill stick with my PC. I can get over 30 games for the price xbox live cost a year and play online for free.

andytisnt
andytisnt

wii u has a great online platform aswell and it doesnt charge customers for this service. and for everyone saying id rather pay a little more for the extra service which is cross platform chats mainly, why cant u get the same service without paying.

SolidTy
SolidTy

Guess How much money I spent on Xbox Live Gold all generation. Hint, I bought a 360 in 2005!


Now, factor in that I actually was an Xbox Live Subscriber the Xbox generation, and also factor in that I was supporting two Gold Accounts this generation...


Yeah, this adds up and it's not pretty. It's enough to buy a PS3, Wii, and a bunch of games.

Think about that when you are buying your 720. How long do you plan on owning the 720?  How many years are you going to be subscribing?

Bust out the calculator folks.

TomJimJack
TomJimJack

This is really a sensible issue for many gamers. Its true that Microsoft's fee is high for the gold account yet there never has been bank theft accounts with appropriation of customers' money as in the known case of PS3 when Sony had to go in trial for that purpose. The real issue here is security or cheap service, the rest is just vent talk.   

Olex2011
Olex2011

Totally agree with article author

airfoemoe
airfoemoe

I liked gold but the fee has to go away once the next Xbox comes out. Wii U is free and so is PS3 without a good interface but it's still free.

stonefang
stonefang

I don't plan on buying the next Xbox system for the reason that I have to pay for something that is free on Playstation. I am really tired of Microsoft nickle and diming people for every little thing. I would use a different operating system if I didn't need windows applications for work and school. Sony is clearly giving people more bang for their buck, and I am going to buy a PS4 when it comes out. 

savagetwinkie
savagetwinkie

I liked gold at first, microsoft had something a bit unique as they maintained a lot of the online features in the OS where PC and Ps3 was supported by developers making the games. It usually meant a better experience across games. 

I stopped paying for live when psn caught up, I have no problem paying for a service, but microsoft didn't try to add value over psn, they just locked out even more content. At this point it just seemed more unethical and I went with a ps3.

BigZman95
BigZman95

Also, just putting it out there, it would be really nice to import our Xbox 360 saves to the 720 so that I don't have to restart games that I have already put a lot of time into. I would also like to see the option to Party Chat while playing a 360 game on the 720. 

BigZman95
BigZman95

I honestly don't mind shelling out the money for Gold. I have an Xbox 360 and PS3. To be honest, the online community on Playstation is just awful. I prefer to just spend the extra money on my Xbox LIVE and be able to play with my friends and have party chat. I love my Xbox and don't care much for my PS3 so I'll keep paying a subscription fee if I have to, but hey I'm not going to argue if they want to make it free. 

charlyk88
charlyk88

I live in a shitty place called argentina, sad but true, and xbox live gold annual fee is 120 dollars, to expensive. Even xbox live games on demand goes from oldie games like star wars the force unleashed 1 with a value of 62 dollars (in xbox live USA is about 20), and newest games like skyrim etc.. 130 dollars each one. I mean digital copies worth the same that box games (even box games are expensive at retailers). The only ones who sells games a bit cheapest are from importers game houses. Microsoft means a life with no more than 5 original games. PS3 games are the cheapest games in this country. There is no competition, it's sad that I choose the xbox 360 (which i love it) above PS3.

supasonic02
supasonic02

I think one of the worst decisions was apps like youtube and netflix requiring gold, it was just plain money grubbing. Also what really annoys me is how some games come with online passes with ps3 i could imagine, but with xbox it's just plain stupid why do I have to pay Microsoft MORE money to play a certain game online if I buy it used? Im already paying them a fee to play games online, thats bullcrap the code should be covered by my damn $60 annual fee.

tbs76
tbs76

I don't mind paying for my Xbox Live. It's not a huge amount of money. I think Microsoft can remedy the backlash by giving its members more free stuff and making apps like Netflix accessible to all owners. So take note microsoft. Why don't you give  Gold members free dlc to certain games, maybe through in a free movie rental or two from the Live video service, a free arcade game or two. Microsoft has the power to compete head to head with Playstation plus but I think their reliance on COD and Halo fans shelling out extra to play multiplayer is whats keeping them from making changes.

ioriaddison
ioriaddison

Never paid or will pay a cent for such additional gaming service. If I am forced to choose one between XBLGold or PSNplus, I would subscribe PSN+.

whodeyzach
whodeyzach

As an owner of both the PS3 and Xbox 360, I play both systems regularly. And I personally feel that Xbox Live overall is far superior to the Playstation Network. So with that said, I don't mind paying $59.99 a year for the Gold membership. Xbox Live is way more user friendly and I personally experience way more problems with online streaming on the Playstation Network.  

teem832
teem832

I don't mind paying for XB Live and some season passes after buying a second hand game I can handle but to buy a new game then to purchase DLC thats only a few KBs sucks it's already on the disks now thats a scam from the game producers!

davidjcu
davidjcu

People complain, but $60 bucks a year isn't bad especially for a secure online system that has access to my social networks as well as financial information. Remember the hacking that resulted in 77 million accounts to be hacked and took 24 days to resolve.  You get w

MrVideoKnight
MrVideoKnight

@BlindedSunlight your username says it all. You have been out of touch from reality. You haven't played a xbox console before. PS4 is going to be pay to play online too.

Rexmeridiem
Rexmeridiem

PS: Xbox consoles better than PS in technical stuff and in controller. 

Orvell
Orvell

@Vegeta-sama if the next PlayStation still has free online play and app use (what else does ms offer I don't know because I don't care, who does), then I'm with the ps.  I sold my first 360 because I could play (on the occasions I felt like playing online, free with sony's system.  I now have 360, but don't pay for live, nor will I.  I really don't know why I haven't sold it and bought another ps3.  I can play mario kart on my wii u for free.  It will be a deciding factor along with the ability to purchase physical media and play used games when I and millions of  others buy our next systems.  I really don't need both, as neither has exclusives I feel I must have, unlike nintendo.  Halo shooter, gran trurismo drive sim, both good but not good enough to justify having both.  Greed is a killer.

Vegeta-sama
Vegeta-sama

@chj915 for over a decade Live has been a paid service...  A DECADE... they will continue to do so because Microsoft will continue to add features onto XBL and will continue to push the service forward. I would like to see all the paid services be available to Silver members though... that's just Microsoft pushing revenue though it does work. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they made basic MP free and lock all that stuff behind the paid service.

Orvell
Orvell

@vindog800 I have had bad experiences on both, and experienced forms of cheating on both.  Of course I think shooters are more fun when your opponent is in the room, I really can't get into trash talking someone I don't know.  But a buddy I just shot in the head, oh yeah.  Why I have played magic the gathering more than any shooter.  I liked co op more in borderlands then I have like any shooter, just my opinion.  I can't understand why people buy so many shooters, I understand why companies make them, easy to churn out and the number sales are often good for some, but... guess I will try the online play again when black ops two gets here for wii u, which I don't have to pay for online play. 

IndianaPwns39
IndianaPwns39

@TomJimJack You're delusional if you think paying for Xbox Live gives you security, as it doesn't. Sony tried to fight hacking and hackers responded in kind by bringing the service down. Now I'm not defending the hackers, but if Microsoft had the same attitude Sony did, the hackers would have brought them down a peg as well. Security has absolutely nothing to do with Gold's price tag. Hell, Microsoft doesn't even pretend that it does. 

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

@TomJimJack PSN is just one other online service. Also, my PSN account was fine, nothing happened to it. Nothing stolen. Plus there are all of the other free services out there that haven't had security issues. Do you really think Xbox Live couldn't be hacked if people wanted to hack it?

stonefang
stonefang

@savagetwinkie  I got rid of my original playstation 3 for that same reason of not having a good online network. Now I wish I would have kept it. LOL

charlyk88
charlyk88

In other words. Xbox 360 is like maintain a VIP sl*t monthly.

thebeachguy90
thebeachguy90

 @davidjcu "Secure online". A network already filled with hackers that have breached many accounts is far from a secure service. Paying doesn't mean squat.

alex4580
alex4580

@Rexmeridiem I love how you fail to include specifics. If that's not blind, blantant fanboyism, then I'm a blue whale. It's funny when people can't appreciate the fact that MicroSOFT is a software giant, while Sony is a hardware giant. The PS3 was released before the software could utilize the console's then unprecedented hardware, whereas the Xbox was build around a familiar architecture allowing developers, as well as customers to jump on board before the software had a time to catch up. Now we can clearly see who's console is superior merely by the exclusive games coming out for both systems; we can see how much more room developers have for design, and it is clear that the PS3 offers a lot more headway. I await you fanboy response, so I may chuckle and go about my life.

andytisnt
andytisnt

@stonefang @savagetwinkie  yeh exactly guys the online service is almost exactly the same, and my gaming experience is exactly the same on ps3 that xbox was charging. if its charging you 60 dollars it should add something extra maybe a free premium title download with ur subcription (which there making millions on already) other wise i cant justify the cost

TomJimJack
TomJimJack

@IndianaPwns39 Let's talk facts and not ifs and buts, Sony dropped the ball and that means their online service wasn't adequate. Microsoft online service offers the best security yet. 
 

IndianaPwns39
IndianaPwns39

@TomJimJack I know what happened... I know the events that lead to it, and if you switched "Microsoft" with "Sony" nothing would have changed. It did happen to Sony, Microsoft is not immune to it and you're simply wrong if you think they are.