Microsoft Renames Xbox Live

Posted on March 23, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox with 19 Comments

In a subtle but important shift, Microsoft this week revealed that it is rebranding Xbox Live to Xbox network to avoid confusion with Xbox Live Gold.

“’Xbox network’ [now] refers to the underlying Xbox online service,” a Microsoft statement explains of the change. “The update from ‘Xbox Live’ to ‘Xbox network’ is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships. Xbox Live isn’t going away. We are making ongoing adjustments to create a simpler, more descriptive messaging system for Xbox in different areas. None of these experiences or features will change as part of these updates.”

A reference to the Xbox network was first spotted in the Microsoft Services Agreement, which was last changed in August 2020. That change included, among other things, the removal of the term “Xbox Live,” replacing it instead with Xbox network. It’s unclear why it took Microsoft this long to comment on the change, but here we are.

More accurately, I think, Microsoft is simply dropping the Xbox Live standalone brand and using Xbox instead. Xbox network—with a small n—refers to the overall service. And Xbox Live Gold continues as the brand representing the paid subscription version of the service. (In the old days, Microsoft differentiated between paying and non-paying customers by calling the free version of the service Xbox Live Silver.)

Ultimately, I feel that Microsoft will drop Xbox Live Gold in favor of Xbox Game Pass once some number of subscribers milestone is surpassed. For now, Xbox Live Gold remains as the entry-level paid Xbox service.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Microsoft Renames Xbox Live”

  1. reason42

    The whole XBOX branding is a confusing hot mess, imho.

    I wonder how many little Johhnys and Janes got the wrong XBOX console/service/accessory/game as gift over the years by unwitting benefactors...

  2. StevenLayton

    It could have been worse, they could have opted for "Xbox Online, Service Pack 2, update 1".

  3. solomonrex

    They've dropped gold as a requirement for certain free games, they've run out of good free games for gold, and game pass gets all the love. They should just pull the band-aid off and merge live gold with game pass.

  4. glenn8878

    This doesn't make it more clear. Xbox Live Gold is distinctive from Xbox Live. One has the word Gold, the other does not.

    Xbox network means Xbox Live, but who will know now what it means? That's because Xbox network will already be a different service due to updates and whatever else they want to add in features. So all it does it confuse people.

    Just do what others do. Xbox Basic, then Xbox Platinum or Xbox Premium.

    Or Xbox Online Basic, Xbox Online Platinum or Xbox Online Premium.

    Or Xbox, Xbox+

  5. Pierre Masse

    So we still have to pay to get multi-users or not?

  6. Ensign Eddie

    I'm really struggling to decide whether or not I even need XBOX Live Gold.

    I'm not interested in multiplayer or the free games. I just play a few titles and can sometimes go a month or more between even turning on the box (but then will tend to binge for a week or two). The only online stuff I'm really interested in is Game Saves and Achievements. Are those still available with just the free tier?


  7. dftf

    Why not call it "Xbox Online"? "Xbox network" sounds a bit 'too-tech', and Xbox is a consumer-orientated product, not a business one. (Thank-goodness it isn't a business-product, or they'd have chosen "Xbox 365", which sounds like the name of one of its actual consoles, given they seem averse to simply follow a more-logical naming-structure, like PSX/PSOne; PS2; PS3; PS4; PS5).

  8. darkgrayknight

    Drop is probably the wrong word. They will either make the Xbox network available for multiplayer for free, or adjust the "tiers".

    So we have these tiers:

    Xbox network (Xbox Live Silver, previously) == Free tier

    Xbox Live Gold == XLG Perks: Multiplayer, Games with Gold, discounts, etc.

    Xbox Game Pass Console == XGP Perks: Games in the Game Pass Library, discounts, EA Play (Games in the EA Play Library)

    Xbox Game Pass PC == XGP Perks for PC: mostly the same as the console

    Xbox Game Pass Ultimate == Both Console & PC XGP Perks, as well as XLG Perks, and Cloud access

    What I don't quite know is if XGP includes XLG, or if that is only the Ultimate version. The website seems to indicate only the Ultimate version has Xbox Live Gold.

    So how many people are doing the Console or PC versions of Xbox Game Pass? I don't see why they would actually drop Xbox Live Gold, it isn't replaced by Game Pass and why would they drop those paying for Xbox Live Gold? I don't see any reason to move to Game Pass yet. I buy a game and play it and even go back to it years later.

  9. coltigore

    MS will regain marketshare when they drop xbox live gold

  10. brothernod

    I wish we had some idea how much running Xbox Live Gold costs Microsoft, without the free games.

    Allowing free online multiplayer without a subscription on Xbox would align nicely with PC and give yet another perk to those on the fence between a PS5 and XsX/S. But I guess it's easy to say that as a fan without some idea how much running the multiplayer servers really costs them.

    • Usman

      In reply to brothernod:

      Multiplayer servers are likely only used by first-party titles.

      I don't think any third-party game these days runs their multiplayer on XBL or PSN specific servers.

      Call of Duty, Fortnite, etc all run don't run on servers specifically only the 'PSN' or 'Xbox Live' servers. They foot the bill for their own multiplayer server costs, outside of those console services.

      Other games such as Titanfall 2 and Apex use Multiplay to host their MP servers across both OnPrem, AWS and Azure.

      The main use is just ancillary features like achievements, party chat, store purchase/licensing, updates etc.

  11. tripleplayed

    Time to tear down that online paywall.

  12. Calibr21

    Makes sense and makes communication clear. For example they can say “Save games are stored on the Xbox network.” If they said “save games are stored on Xbox Live” that can imply you need a live subscription which is not true, and opposite of Sony’s psplus requirement for cloud saves.

  13. winner

    " order to avoid confusion..."


    Isn't confusion the heart of most of Microsoft's marketing?

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