Xbox Live was one of the first online gaming services in the console space. Since its initial launch in 2002, a lot has changed in how we play and interact with each other online. With the recent market push of free-to-play games and Sony recently caving to customer demand for cross-play, and the effect Xbox Game Pass has had on the industry. It is time some changes came to Xbox Live Gold.
Requiring Xbox Live Gold to Play Free-to-Play Games.
Xbox Live Gold has always been a requirement to play games online, one of the big pushes that PlayStation had during the early days of the PS3 was that their online was completely free to use. Unfortunately, PSN at the time was very insecure and a large hack knocked it offline for a prolonged period of time. To PlayStation’s credit, after that, a lot of resources were funneled into the service, and when PlayStation 4 launched with mandatory PS+ membership for online play, the differences between Xbox Live and PS Plus were almost unnoticeable. However, since the blowup of free to play juggernaut Fortnite it brought a lot of attention to the fact that you did not need PS+ to play Fortnite online, while on Xbox you need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play. A requirement of a paid membership to play a “free to play ” game feels redundant. While Xbox has been able to use the marketing of consumer-friendly actions with their stance on crossplay and other services, which are great, this does not excuse this outdated practice. When both competitors are offering no requirement of online memberships to play free to play games, it is certainly not a good look for Xbox. When you try to introduce new customers into your ecosystem, it is important they understand clearly the guidelines of your memberships. Charging for free to play game access is a hard thing to explain to consumers and should ultimately be removed.
Xbox Game Pass Requires Gold for Online.
Xbox Game Pass is a relatively new service this generation that for a monthly fee it’s gives you access to over 100 games that you can download to your console. With such titles as Halo 5: Guardians, Gears Of War 4 and some heavy hitting third-party titles, it is a pretty good deal, especially if you are new to the Xbox ecosystem. PlayStation has a service similar which is called PlayStation Now, which allows you to stream titles from the PS2, PS3, and PS4. The major downside to the service was the fact that you had to stream the games versus download, which meant if you did not have a very good high-speed connection. You could face a wide variety of performance issues from framerate drops, control latency and more. This was less than optimal, which was a shame because PS Now hosts a whopping 650+ games on the service. Recently, Sony announced that you would be able to download PS4 and PS2 titles through the service which is a good first step in bringing the service into line with Game Pass. PS3 games are still required to be streamed which is a shame, but with the struggle of cell processing that those games were developed in, it would take some insane engineering to make them downloadable on PS4. However, one step that Sony did, perhaps to compensate this fact is that if you have a PlayStation Now membership you do not need a PS+ account in order to play the online aspects of any of the games In the service.
Xbox Game Pass is miles ahead in other regards such as day one access to first-party exclusive titles, downloading all the titles available in the service, as well as significant discounts on games within the service if you wish to own them. This does not however, mean that the service should become complacent. One of the best aspects of Microsoft, PlayStation and Nintendo’s constant fight for market share is they make each other better. In this aspect, PlayStation was pushed by Game Pass to improve a very out of date service in PS Now. However, with those changes, they made some that Xbox could certainly learn from. Having people double dip on memberships on their new console may not be appealing to a more casual audience. If you get a new an Xbox One for Christmas and use your Game Pass trial, should you not be able to play Halo 5: Guardians online without having to purchase a secondary membership?
This push pull relationship between the big three have given us some amazing games, service improvements and generally pushed gaming forward this generation. I believe we as consumers should always push for more from these companies. I have been an Xbox Live subscriber for almost eight years and have had almost no issues with the service. That does not mean I do not have criticisms about the service, as it is possible to give credit while still being critical and it is always important to remember that.