My resolve weakens whenever a new Halo is released. The lure of slaying irascible hunters with three like-minded Spartans by my side trumps the lone supersoldier experience, so I willfully ignore the greedy means that make such a feat possible. But I can no longer run from the harsh truth of reality like so many foolhardy grunts. Xbox Live Gold is an antiquated dinosaur that no longer fits within this industry. It’s an exploitive service that takes advantage of people’s innate desire to connect with others, charging significant money ($59.99/year, or $9.99/month) for features given away for free on competing platforms. As the next generation approaches, it’s time for Microsoft to shelve this nickel-and-diming venture once and for all.
It’s a concept that people who are immersed in gaming take for granted, but sounds downright crazy when viewed from a different angle. Shelling out your hard-earned cash for Halo 4 doesn’t get you everything; you also need to pony up for a Gold subscription if you want access to the lion’s share of content you paid for. The much-heralded multiplayer mode is completely closed off, as is playing through the campaign online with friends. Even Spartan Ops, which can be enjoyed alone if you pay Microsoft’s subscription fee, is inexplicably kept away from people who don’t part with some extra money. This is a ridiculous barrier that doesn’t exist on any other system or in any other medium. Microsoft’s ardent desire to force people to pay more money means that you might not get to experience the entire game that you just purchased.
Years ago, Xbox Live Gold offered a novelty well worth its asking price. Although online gaming was widely available (and completely free) on PCs, the ability to play with faraway friends and strangers had yet to enter living rooms. Slowly but surely, consoles began to tap into the online ecosystem. The Dreamcast created a mild ripple with its built-in 56K modem and the peep-smashing joy of Phantasy Star Online. The GameCube and PlayStation 2 had a few online games as well, but because you had to buy a broadband adapter, connectivity became another peripheral failure. It wasn’t until the Xbox that online gaming on your television became a viable entertainment option. I didn’t think twice about shelling out a few extra dollars each month to engage in the fiery dogfights of Crimson Skies or the kinetic card battles of Phantom Dust.