In The Game Pass Era, Xbox Live Gold Shouldn't Exist

Ever since the debut of Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold has grown to look very outdated. Game Pass is more than a higher tier of an Xbox Live subscription, granting access to a large library of games while Xbox Live Gold offers nothing of the sort. What perks that Gold does offer look very meager in comparison.

With players flocking to Game Pass for the selection of games on offer, Xbox Live Gold has been criticized for offering less value. Of course, Xbox Live Gold came along long before Xbox Game Pass, but it has failed to evolve in any considerable way. Charging players to access multiplayer games may have been Xbox's style a decade ago, but it feels out of step now that Game Pass exists, and the weak perks Xbox's Games With Gold offers rarely justify the cost of a Live subscription.

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Xbox Live Gold has been a part of the Xbox series for a very long time, but Game Pass has surpassed it very quickly. If Xbox Live Gold were to upgrade and evolve, it could gain a better reputation. However, considering how far it has fallen behind the times, it may be too late for it to recover. There are a few specific points that can explain Gold's failings, and why it now feels like a relic that Xbox should part with.

One of the biggest original draws of Xbox Live and its paid subscription model was that it gave players the ability to play against and with other people online. This was a major boost for Xbox's early multiplayer games such as Halo 2. At first online play was a bit of a novelty, but it quickly spread, eventually reaching the point where online multiplayer has become a staple of the industry and a major force in its own right. In the present day, there are entire games such as Overwatch and SMITE that consist entirely of online multiplayer matches, but not every platform requires a paid subscription in order for them to be accessed.

As time went on, online play became more and more common in games. Xbox Live Gold grew more enticing for plenty of players, because it became more or less essential in order to get the most out of multiple major titles, such as Halo and Call of Duty. Eventually, it reached a point where online play felt like something that should be included by default rather than a feature locked behind an extra payment. Almost every multiplayer game on Xbox needed it, so those games essentially required an extra yearly charge in order to be enjoyed fully.

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With more platforms not requiring a subscription in order to access online multiplayer and co-op titles, and with Game Pass presenting better value for money overall, Xbox Live Gold feels like an unwanted extra payment that players are required to take in order to partake in core features of certain titles. With free-to-play games on Xbox no longer requiring Live, Microsoft seems to be realizing that. The days where connecting a console to the internet was a novelty have long since passed, and Xbox Live Gold feels like a relic of those less established days. Offering little more than a key to playing games online, what Gold brings should really be a base feature rather than a paid extra.

Games With Gold is a program that has been a part of Xbox Live since July 2013. Twice per month, a game is offered for players to download for free, with each offer lasting until the next game is rotated in. An offer of a free game sounds amazing, and Microsoft has offered very good games in the past. When the Xbox One came out, Games With Gold began offering both Xbox 360 and Xbox One games through the service. However, the service has gained a reputation for offering less-than-stellar titles in recent years, with February 2022's Xbox Games With Gold offerings proving especially unappealing.

When Game Pass launched on the Xbox One, it had a higher price tag than Xbox Live Gold, but quickly showed its worth with the Game Pass library, featuring a large collection of titles that players can download and play for free as long as they are a part of the service. Even some new releases and major titles are offered through Game Pass, which has become a major draw for subscribers. Games will occasionally be cycled out of Game Pass as new titles are added, but any title on Game Pass can be bought at a discount as long as it is part of the service. It is essentially a way for players to try games out before buying them, and it feels very much like a video game version of Netflix.

Xbox Game Pass added over $6,000 of games in 2021, and presents great value for money. It's also overshadowed Games With Gold. As one of Gold's only outstanding features outside of online play, it just makes Gold look obsolete now that a vastly improved version is available on the same console. Even though one could consider them to be different tiers of the same online service, Game Pass outstrips Gold by such a massive degree that even that comparison seems unfair.

With Xbox Live Gold looking more outdated as time move on, Microsoft should be considering what they should do with the service. What Gold offers feels both underwhelming as well as vital to the console, considering that it is still required in order to play online. Taking criticisms into account, it may be time for Microsoft to make a change to the way that Xbox Live Gold works. Even cutting the price of Xbox Live Gold may not be enough of a change.

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One solution would be to expand free online play beyond the free-to-play games to encompass all games with online features. Although this would leave Gold's only quirk as the underwhelming offerings from Games With Gold, perhaps that would lead to Gold being phased out, with Ultimate being the only extra tier. Since Xbox Live Ultimate boasts the Game Pass library, it feels like something worth the extra payment to access. Game Pass is one of the best online services in gaming at the moment, and Microsoft was wise to introduce it. However, it also highlighted just why Gold feels so weak in comparison.

As for whether Microsoft would actually phase out Gold, there are reports that the company is waiting for Xbox Game Pass to reach a milestone before considering dropping Gold. Xbox Live Gold has been a part of the service for a long time, and Microsoft would probably not let it fade away without a very good reason. However, the introduction of Xbox Live Ultimate and Game Pass has provided such an improved version of what Gold does already that there is a chance that it could seriously consider making some changes.

While Xbox Live Gold was once one of gaming's premier online services, now it sits in the shadow of Xbox Game Pass. Boasting few perks of its own besides online play, Gold feels like a relic of a previous console generation. After being surpassed by so many other platforms and services, Xbox Live Gold is obsolete.

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