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Oi, Microsoft: stop charging for Xbox Live

Matt Peckham, PCWorld.com's dedicated gaming blogger, believes that far from allowing Sony to charge for the PlayStation Network, gamers should stop Microsoft charging for Xbox Live:

Should Sony charge for its currently gratis PlayStation Network? That's the question some are apparently asking some are apparently asking in a kind of fawning, anticipatory way, assuming for not entirely clear and maybe even slightly confused reasons that it would bolster Sony's revenue models.

Why? I guess because a company with a financial portfolio as complex as Sony's needs speculative general financial advice from the crowd.

The answer is no, of course, Sony doesn't need to start charging for its PSN, or, so long as we make that analogous to simply "communicating and gaming with others online", doesn't as in ever.

But since we're tossing around provocative ideas, how about a consumer-friendly alternative? As in: Microsoft needs to stop charging $50 a year for its Xbox Live online matchmaking service.

This summer, Microsoft rendered its Games For Windows Live online matchmaking service free. Up to this point, it looked like Xbox Live does today. $50 for "Gold" and unfettered online play, nothing at all for "Silver" to more or less stand at the window looking in.

Microsoft wised up to its PC audience by dropping the annual fee, even going so far as to proactively refund subscription fees for then "Gold" subscribers. While it sounds bold and noble, the decision to make GFW Live a freebie was inevitable.

Computer gamers and developers alike balked at Microsoft's attempt to throw precedent out the window and slap a tax on traditionally free functionality without a single compelling value-add (I'm looking at you, TrueSkill).

Of course the next question was as inevitable: "What about Xbox Live?"

The answer this summer from Microsoft Senior Global Director of Games For Windows Kevin Ungangst was:

The GFW Live announcement has no bearing at all on what we're doing with Xbox Live, and I think if you look at the Xbox-related announcements we just made at E3, we're going to continue to deliver even more value to Xbox Live gold subscribers.

Frankly, Xbox Live members are going to get more people to play with as a result of the GFW Live announcement, and I think that community will get exponentially larger as a result of what we're doing on Windows.

They're different services designed for difference audiences that happens to be connected and share a Gamertag.

Which, with respect to Kevin, who's basically carrying Microsoft's water here, was a classic, bullet-point dodge. There simply isn't any extra value in an Xbox Live Gold membership (getting "more people to play with as a result of the GFW Live announcement" certainly isn't something one side should have to pay for).

NEXT PAGE: unique architectures, services... not so much

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