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.