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Microsoft clears the air on Xbox Live Gold

Over the last few weeks, Xbox fans have become concerned about the future of the Xbox Gold Live service. Some of the changes being made ahead of the launch of the Xbox Series X have people worried that Xbox Gold Live will soon be no more. Others believe that Xbox Gold Live may soon become a free service. However, newer statements from Xbox may have put that speculation to rest, at least for the time being.

The concern surrounding Xbox Live Gold's future began when the 12-month subscription option was removed from Microsoft's "Buy Xbox Live Gold" page a few weeks ago. At the time, it seemed like it might have been a mistake. However, that option is still missing, with no real indication as to when or if it will be added back to the page. Then came the rumors that the multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite would be free-to-play, which was later confirmed to be true. After that, Xbox updated the terms and services on its website and quite conspicuously removed all references to Xbox Live, leading many people to wonder what this exactly means for Xbox's online gaming services.

According to Xbox, however, not much is really changing (for now).

Video Games Chronicle reached out to Xbox for comment on the confusing situation. Luckily, the response from Xbox seems to indicate that Xbox Live Gold is here to stay, but the company is attempting to rephrase or clear up some of the details, which is why all of the references to Xbox Live disappeared from the site.

A representative for Xbox told VGC, "The update to 'Xbox online service' in the Microsoft Services Agreement refers to the underlying Xbox service that includes features like cross-saves and friend requests. This language update is intended to distinguish that underlying service, and the paid Xbox Live Gold subscription. There are no changes being made to the experience of the service or Xbox Live Gold."

In other words, it appears as though much of the information that was taken down will only be gone temporarily. Once Xbox implements these new changes to the terms and language used on the site, it should all be back to normal. While it's great to see that Xbox is clarifying certain confusing aspects of the Microsoft Services Agreement, this unfortunately had the side effect of confusing the heck out of plenty of consumers. 

However, this does not necessarily mean that we can discount the idea of Xbox Gold Live going free at some point in the future. The Verge recently reached out to Xbox for a comment on the situation, as well as whether or not Xbox Gold might become a free service. In response, an Xbox rep told The Verge, "We have no plans to discontinue Xbox Live Gold at this time. It is an important part of gaming on Xbox today, and will continue to be in the future."

So basically, Xbox has reassured folks that the service won't be going away anytime soon. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the service won't be changing its business model in some way. Again, the fact that yearly memberships are no longer available would seem to indicate that Xbox plans to phase out the paid subscription plans for Xbox Live Gold. It's starting to sound like that may still be in the cards at some point for the service to become free, but Xbox is remaining vague. Just because nothing is changing about the service itself doesn't mean that the pricing won't be affected in some way.

Towards the end of last month, The Verge's Tom Warren seemed convinced that Xbox may be planning to roll a few of its services under one umbrella. As he pointed out, the subscription cost for Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold is the same amount. If Microsoft is planning to help customers cut costs as an expensive new console launches, this would be a great way to continue the services that Xbox diehards love in a way that's easier on their wallets. Considering how much hype Game Pass received during the Xbox Games Showcase last month, that would make a certain amount of sense. After all, that event revealed that every new game shown during the Showcase would be made available through Xbox Game Pass or would be free-to-play.

Others seem to believe that there is something more sinister at work here. One fan theorized that the only reason the 12-month subscription option was removed was so that Microsoft could earn an extra $20 a year per customer.

For the time being, it seems like the biggest news surrounding Xbox Live Gold is that Microsoft is denying that there is any definite news. There are still some odd details that don't quite add up, but hopefully those will be cleared up as the release date of the Xbox Series X grows closer.