On Friday, Microsoft announced that it was going to raise prices for Xbox Live Gold during a pandemic, a statement that rightfully ignited anger among Xbox fans. Just a few hours later, Microsoft furiously backtracked and said it had “messed up.” No price hikes would be coming at this time, the company said. It addition, it was throwing in free multiplayer for free-to-play games, too.
In an update to its original blog posted just before midnight on Friday, Microsoft recognized that multiplayer is a critical part of gaming and said it had “failed to meet the expectations” of players who use multiplayer every day. It’s not like it’s easy to skip out on Xbox Live Gold, which is required to play games online on Xbox consoles. The move would have increased the cheapest option for a one-year membership from $60—which can currently still be bought from stores like GameStop and Amazon—to $120. Ouch.
In an apparent effort to appease angry and disappointed players, Microsoft said it would no longer require players to have an Xbox Live Gold membership to play multiplayer for free-to-play games, such as Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone. For comparison’s sake, before this announcement, Microsoft was the only major platform that did not allow players to use multiplayer for free on free-to-play games, the Verge reported.
“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,” Microsoft said in its update. “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.”
Microsoft did not specify when free multiplayer would come for free-to-play games, only that it was working to do so “as soon as possible” over the next few months.
In terms of pricing for Xbox Live Gold, existing members will stay at their current price point for renewal. New and existing members can pay $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, $39.99 for six months, and $59.99 for retail 12 months, per the company.
It wasn’t hard to deduce that the company’s proposed price increase wouldn’t be taken very well. First off, it’s proposing this during a pandemic, which has benefitted its gaming division. Second, it didn’t even bother to explain why it was increasing the price. The only inkling of a reason it gave was that it would “continue to invest” in the Xbox community and that in many markets, the price of Xbox Live Gold hadn’t changed in more than 10 years.
“Periodically, we assess the value and pricing of our services to reflect changes in regional marketplaces and to continue to invest in the Xbox community; we’ll be making price adjustments for Xbox Live Gold in select markets,” the company said in its original blog post.
Microsoft’s now axed price hike was seen by many as an effort by the company to nudge players into switching over to its Game Pass Ultimate service, which gives members access Game Pass, a service with a Netflix-like library of games, and Xbox Live Gold, among other perks, for $14.99 per month. The deal for Game Pass Ultimate is better than paying for Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass on their own and would end up making Microsoft more money in the long run.
As noted by Polygon, however, not everyone can afford to buy Game Pass Ultimate, and they shouldn’t be forced into it just to put more money into Microsoft’s pockets. Thankfully, now they won’t have to, and they can celebrate that fact by playing multiplayer on free-to-play games in the near future.