Get ready to pay more for multiplayer gaming on your Xbox 360. Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE has been hailed by some as the pinnacle of online console gaming, but should we really have to pay to play online?
You’ve just splurged 200 quid on an Xbox 360 and spent another pretty penny on a bunch of multiplayer games. But when you want to take Halo ODST or Gears of War 2 for a spin online, you’re met with a charge.
You’ve already bought the console, the games, and pay a monthly fee for your broadband, so why should you have to pay a subscription to Microsoft for all of the Xbox 360’s online gubbins?
The issue has been around for years, but yesterday Microsoft announced an Xbox LIVE price hike. From 1 November, a one-month’s subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold will cost £5.99 instead of £4.99 in the UK. Unlike in the US, which will now cost an extra $10 a year, there’ll be no change to the UK’s yearly cost of £39.99.
Is Xbox LIVE still the best?
Xbox LIVE has been around for eight years, debuting on the original Xbox and later expanding onto the 360 in 2005. Most would agree that it revolutionised console gaming for good, putting online services right at the centre and forcing other gaming companies, like Sony and Nintendo, to push their own online offerings.
Sure, Microsoft’s service has long been ahead of the pack, but the gap between its competitors is closing. Sony offers its PlayStation Network to PlayStation 3 gamers for free – and with additions like trophies and cross-game text chat, Microsoft’s justification to charge is becoming very taut.
Of course, people will pay, because what other option do they have? But does it really offer value for money? Should you really have to pay to play a game you’ve already bought?
Shouldn’t online gaming be free?
I don’t really have much issue with paying for premium extras, but coughing up for online gaming itself seems like a cost too far. Especially when the service is still plastered with ads even when you do pay. You don’t get that with your BBC licence.
Sure, Microsoft has server costs to pay (not for the games themselves – most are peer-to-peer) but Sony gets by without charging (its new PlayStation Plus service still offers free online gaming) and PC gamers don’t have to pay either.
Why can’t online gaming be built into the cost of the game itself? Of course, you can buy your subscriptions when they’re on sale – but it’s the principle that counts. It’s a tax on gaming that you almost feel obliged to pay.
It’s also my view that if we didn’t have to pay for the service itself, we’d feel much happier to spend our cash on extras we actually want. At least, I know I would.