Microsoft was one of the first companies out of the big three to charge for online multiplayer, and they might be the first ones to drop it as well.
In the past couple of days, there have been a lot of rumors regarding the removal of 12 months of Xbox Live Gold from the Microsoft Store. This has led to speculation among fans that Microsoft is making the bold move of dropping the Gold requirement for the Xbox Live multiplayer, and it is not out of the possibility if we consider their current business model.
Microsoft has started to rely heavily on a subscription-based service and going all-in with Xbox Game Pass and Project xCloud, which is basically their own version of Netflix for games. Xbox Live Gold was a subscription service that allowed users to play online multiplayer and it started to add free games to the service every month, in order to compete with Sony’s PlayStation Plus. It seems this is a thing of the past now with the rapid expansion of Xbox Game Pass, which is available for both PC and Xbox One.
Some of the major announcements that Microsoft has made in recent times are Project xCloud coming to Game Pass Ultimate Bundle and Game Pass for PC. It is still in the Beta stage for now but it appears Microsoft is hoping to make an attractive library of games before they go in with a public launch of the Game Pass for PC. There are still many games that are added to the service however, the focus appears to be on the Xbox One version of Game Pass for now.
Game Pass Ultimate has proved to be a major success for Microsoft and has combined Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass for PC, and Xbox One into one bundle. Now with the newly announced Project xCloud, it is an insane bundle with high quality to price ratio. It currently costs $99.99 for one year and comes with xCloud (streaming service for games), Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass for PC, and Xbox One. Microsoft might be on the verge of making it their default subscription choice if we go by the recent speculation.
As the yearly subscription for Xbox Live Gold has been removed from the official website, it might be time to remove online multiplayer as well in order to make subscription more attractive to the general Xbox One users. Currently, if you own Game Pass, you can play online multiplayer but only for games that are included in the subscription service. The same restriction applies to Project xCloud. Knowing that both these services don’t’ require Xbox Live Gold, it is not a big surprise if Microsoft removes the online requirement altogether.
Microsoft will host its Games Showcase on July 23 and will have a lot of major first-party games revealed during that event. It is possible that if they have online multiplayer plans for the future, they might reveal it during that event. It is a big announcement that should take both Sony and Nintendo by surprise. Sony currently offers PS Plus subscription service for $59.99 per year and it comes with monthly games, discounts, and online multiplayer. Nintendo has a different approach and while its Nintendo Online subscription is cheaper at $19.99 per year, they only offer NES and SNES virtual games library as one of the perks for their subscription in addition to online multiplayer.