After a couple of Xbox Insiders spotted that "Xbox Network” had started to replace “Xbox Live” in the Xbox OS, Microsoft has now confirmed that the branding change was indeed real. In a statement shared with The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson explained that the change won’t impact the Xbox Live Gold subscription which isn’t going away.
“’Xbox network’ refers to the underlying Xbox online service, which was updated in the Microsoft Services Agreement,” the spokesperson said. “The update from ‘Xbox Live’ to ‘Xbox network’ is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships.”
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 21, 2021
For those unfamiliar, Xbox Live launched back in 2002 on the original Xbox where it really standardized online gaming and voice communication on consoles. The service later expanded to Windows PCs and mobile devices where it is currently free to use, but Microsoft continues to restrict online gaming on Xbox consoles to the premium Xbox Live Gold service.
Back in August 2020, Microsoft updated its Services Agreement to replace “Xbox Live” with Xbox online service.” At the time, the company also said that the update to ‘Xbox online service’ was "intended to distinguish that underlying service and the paid Xbox Live Gold subscription,” but that no changes were being made to the service or Xbox Live Gold.
Fast forward to January 2021, Microsoft announced that they would be increasing the price of their Xbox Live Gold online service, but backtracked a couple of hours later after a massive backlash from gamers. In addition to the price reversal, the company also announced that free-to-play games on Xbox consoles would no longer require an Xbox Live Gold subscription later this year, though the premium service wasn’t going away.
It's not clear yet when the switch from Xbox Live to Xbox Network will roll out on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles, but it's interesting to note PlayStation Network (PSN) is the name of Sony's online service for PlayStation consoles. Sony's PSN also doesn't have a paywall for free-to-play games, something that Microsoft's Xbox Network will finally match later this year.
Do you think it's a good idea for Microsoft to replace Xbox Live with Xbox Network, even though the Xbox Live brand has been around for almost 20 years? Sound off in the comments below.