By Jared Newman | Monday, October 19, 2009 at 11:03 am
I should know better than to springboard off the thoughts of video game industry analyst Michael Pachter, but sometimes it’s irresistable. The guy’s got a knack for being provocative.
His latest theory? Microsoft will, over time, double the Xbox Live subscription cost from $50 to $100 per year. Speaking on Game Trailers’ Bonus Round broadcast, Pachter said Microsoft “wants to hook every gamer who has a 360 to play everything multiplayer, and pay 50 bucks a year; and then in a couple of years it’s 100 bucks,” adding that “it’s a profit deal” for the company.
If Microsoft so much as touches the cost of an Xbox Live Gold subscription, it’ll be huge news. Since the online gaming service debuted for the original Xbox in 2002, the price has held firm at $50 per year. And earlier this year, there was a downward trend, with many third-party retailers selling discounted annual subscription cards. The fact that Xbox Live costs anything at all has also proven great fodder for Sony loyalists, who get their Playstation 3 online gaming gratis.
I’ve always felt that Xbox Live is worth the cost of admission, which is less than you’d spend on one game per year. It’s better integrated into the console’s DNA than Sony’s network, and cross-game voice chat makes communicating with friends nearly effortless. Is it worth an extra $50? Tough call.
See, Microsoft is adding new features, such as Twitter and Facebook integration, the 1 vs. 100 quiz show and the ability to watch movies with online buddies, so you can’t say that a price hike isn’t at all justified. But the core service of online play hasn’t evolved much over the years, or at least not since Halo 2 pioneered an automatic matchmaking system for finding other players. Online play remains a hotbed for foul-mouthed sore losers and spoiled winners, and bigger picture ideas such as tournaments and clans are largely missing.
The extra services aren’t worth an added cost. If Microsoft were to inch up the subscription price, I’d probably think hard about what I’d miss with the Playstation Network alone, an then set a limit on what I’d pay for Xbox Live ($60 seems reasonable). If you’re not blessed with both consoles, just hope that Pachter is wrong this time.