I, along with 30 Helens, agree with Don Reisinger on the subject of Xbox Live. Xbox Live Gold memberships should be free. I actually can’t speak for the aforementioned Helens, so let’s just say that Don and I are in complete concurrence.
The basic argument is that if Xbox Live Gold memberships were free, instead of $50 per year, Microsoft would have a lot more online players, which they could sell advertising against, which would make up for the loss of revenue. Plus, playing multiplayer online games on the PS3 and the Nintendo Wii is free, making the Xbox the only major console that charges for the privilege of playing online – Reisinger makes the argument that Microsoft would sell more consoles if online play were free.
The people that Microsoft is missing out on are people like me. I own an Xbox 360, I play it sporadically, and I’ve resisted paying to upgrade my Xbox Live Silver membership to Gold. Know why? Because the only game I actually wish I could play against other people is “Catan,” which I bought from the Xbox Live Arcade for $10. All of a sudden, I have to pay $50 per year to play against other human beings. I can afford $50 per year, but the game was ten bucks. It’s the principle that stinks.
Then there’s this Netflix thing that’s going to be rolling out on the Xbox 360 this fall. I would have joined Netflix just to use this service to stream movies to my Xbox 360 except that in order to use it, I arbitrarily have to have a Gold account. Again, another $50 per year. I might as well just buy a Roku box for $99 and get it over with. I’ll probably just end up buying a big pile of nothing, though. Bad news for Netflix.
Finally, if I really want to play online, I have a computer and a Nintendo Wii. I know it’s comparing apples to oranges, especially as the Wii stacks up against the Xbox 360’s horsepower, but guess which platform I’ll be buying Tiger Woods ‘09 on? It’s the only other game I really want to be able to play online.
If Microsoft sticks to the $50 per year charge for Gold memberships, I think it’d be nice to perhaps at least let people who buy games through XBLA play those online for free. That, or make a Bronze membership for free, a Silver membership for $20 per year containing just basic online play, and then keep the Gold membership at $50 per year. I don’t care about the other perks that come with the Gold membership – early access to demos, TrueSkill, friends lists – I just want to play Catan online.