By Jared Newman | Friday, August 28, 2009 at 3:43 pm
One of the nice things about Facebook and Twitter is that they’re free to use, but won’t really be the case on the Xbox 360.
Microsoft confirmed to G4 that an Xbox Live Gold subscription will be required to use either service, at least beyond a “free trial period.” A Gold subscription costs $50 per year, and also includes online play, access to Netflix streaming and other perks.
I understand what Microsoft is trying to do here. Xbox Live, traditionally, has been a venue for fiercely competitive online play. Despite most games’ ability to match players based on skill, it can be difficult for a casual player to find fair competition. I consider myself fairly skilled at video games, but I’ve been beaten down countless times in Street Fighter IV, Gears of War and Fight Night Round 4.
That’s not a bad thing, except it doesn’t appeal to the so-called casual crowd that Microsoft will be trying to attract in the years ahead. Slowly, we see that Microsoft is trying to build a compelling case for Xbox Live Gold even if you’re not an online gamer. Aside from Twitter, Facebook and Netflix, Gold subscribers will soon be able to stream music using Last.fm and play in the 1 vs. 100 online quiz show (currently in open beta).
But unlike those other services, Facebook and Twitter aren’t worth paying for. Microsoft can talk all it wants about how the social networking is “seamlessly integrated” into the console, but I don’t think they’ll gain many converts with a free trial.
A better solution might be to offer “Lite” versions of Facebook and Twitter. We know that the services will include advanced features, such as the ability to upload game screenshots into your Facebook profile, so maybe Microsoft should withhold those features for Xbox Live Silver members. That way, people could slowly become persuaded of Xbox Live’s overall value, instead of being forced to make a decision when their trial period runs out.