This past week’s announcement at the Game Developer Conference attracted an awful lot of raised eyebrows. Microsoft, makers of the Xbox One, wanted to let a new generation of PC gamers and developers know that it was back and that it wasn’t going to stop until it built a platform that every gamer could enjoy, regardless of what Microsoft product they preferred. What Xbox head Phil Spencer laid out was bold. The full spectrum Xbox Live services are coming to Windows 10. It wasn’t until later in the week that we got the most shocking news about Xbox Live on PC though.
Xbox Live for PC will be free, according to Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb. Suddenly, Windows PC users are enthusiastic about Microsoft’s coming offerings. That sound you hear is every Xbox One and Xbox 360 owner who has paid for Xbox Live slowly gathering their pitch forks. I don’t necessarily agree with their politics, but I do see a reason for raised eyebrows.
Ever since Microsoft kick-started the online gaming revolution, Xbox Live has been a subscription service. Today, Xbox One users pay $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year for access to the company’s online multiplayer and matchmaking service. Also included is access to some extra gaming related features – like GameDVR Cloud Storage for video clips and Upload Studio. Microsoft also hands out free games and deep discounts with Xbox Live Gold. What these users are asking is why should they be required to pay for these things when Microsoft plans to make them free for Windows 10 users?
The company did confirm that Fable Legends and Gigantic would use Xbox Live on the PC. These are fairly mainstream games, not the low-end mobile titles that the Windows Store holds today. The company has made it clear that they see Xbox Live as a high-end, cross-platform service going forward. If PC users are getting that great of an Xbox Live experience without paying a dime, why should anyone have to pay for it at all?
It’s not hard to understand why Microsoft is making Xbox Live on Windows 10 free. Simply put, I think it’d be a hard sale to PC gamers if they didn’t. The company has failed multiple times with PC gaming. Asking the same gamers they’ve let down multiple times to give them money for things they can get from other PC services for free would be suicide.
I suppose it all comes down to how you see Xbox Live Gold. Is Xbox Live Gold a video game subscription service these days? If it is just a way for users to get free games, shouldn’t Microsoft give Xbox Live multiplayer access to PC users for free? At a time when Microsoft is trying to position the service as a gaming social network, does it even make sense for Microsoft to tie multiplayer to Xbox Live Gold anymore?
For right now, we can only answer these questions with another: Isn’t it going to be an interesting E3?