What just happened? Microsoft's long-running Xbox Live service hasn't seen a price adjustment in years, despite receiving a few core feature improvements over time (including the 'Games with Gold' program). There was the intention to change that, where Gold subscription fees would be increasing across the board (unless you have an existing 12 or 6-month plan). But scratch that, Microsoft has quickly reacted as shown below.
To bring Xbox Live more in line with how we see the player at the center of their experience we will be removing Gold requirements for free-to-play games.— Xbox (@Xbox) January 23, 2021
We're starting work on that immediately and will have updates in the coming months. Details: https://t.co/tWomNAwmp9
The size of the price hikes varies depending on the plan you use. For month-to-month subscribers, the increase will only be $1, raising fees from $9.99 to $10.99 a month. 3-month plans are going up by $5 to $29.99. Both modest adjustments, all things considered.
Things get quite a bit more expensive for six-month plans, though. Whereas you'd previously pay $40 for a six-month Gold subscription, you'll now be expected to pay $60.
This means that, for a year of coverage on a six-month plan (billed twice annually), you'll now be paying $120 instead of $80. That's a massive increase no matter how you look at it, especially since Microsoft discontinued its cheaper, $60 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscription option back in July of 2020.
Frankly, it's questionable whether Xbox Live Gold alone even offers enough value to warrant these new costs.
But perhaps that's the point. Many theorize that these price adjustments are meant to push people to sign up for Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which includes Gold as part of its monthly package.
If that is Microsoft's plan, it's a smart one. Ultimate is undeniably a better value than Gold alone, offering up Gold, xCloud, Game Pass, EA Play, and "exclusive perks" for $15/month.
With that said, some gamers would undoubtedly prefer not to pay the extra cash for features they won't use. In those, Gold's increased fees will probably be looked at as nothing more than an annoyance.