It seems that Microsoft could soon announce some changes for its Xbox Live Gold subscription, which has been around since the launch of the original Xbox console. Microsoft recently removed the option to buy 12 months of Xbox Live Gold on its online store, and VentureBeat journalist Jeff Grubb recently claimed that Microsoft could soon drop the Xbox Live Gold requirement for playing multiplayer games on Xbox.
Microsoft has yet to officially announce any changes for Xbox Live Gold, but the company has now quietly updated its Services agreement to replace "Xbox Live” with Xbox online service.” Another notable change in the updated document is the use of “Xbox consoles” to refer to Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles.
Xbox Live is now referred to as "Xbox online service" in Microsoft's Services Agreement https://t.co/6AvJucbReq
There's been rumors and speculation lately that Xbox Live Gold may go away soon pic.twitter.com/PVFqesUFyo
— Wario64 (@Wario64) August 4, 2020
Even though the new Services agreement no longer mentions “Xbox Live” or Xbox Live Gold” specifically, the subscription service and the online multiplayer paywall for free to play games may not immediately go away. According to the store listing for Halo: Infinite, the game’s free-to-play multiplayer mode will still require Xbox Live Gold on Xbox One consoles.
It would be a bit surprising to see Microsoft get rid of Xbox Live Gold, which is one of the company's oldest consumer subscription services and likely a good source of revenue. However, the company may well want to shake things up ahead of the launch of a new console generation, and free multiplayer may well convince PlayStation fans to give the Xbox ecosystem a second look.
Update 9:50AM PT: Xbox Live Gold isn't going away according to a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson provided to Windows Central. The new "Xbox online service" wording has been apparently been introduced to differentiate features like cross-saves and friend requests from Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold subscription. You can find the full statement from the spokesperson below:
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.