What Is Xbox Live Gold and Why Should You Care?

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Aging folks will always have a fondness for the old days, but it’s undeniable that video gaming used to be simpler than it is now. Back in the ‘80s and most of the ’90s, all you needed was a console and a game and you were good to go. Then the Internet came around, and the whole thing got a lot more complicated.

A big part of that complexity is that if you own a major gaming console, you now have to decide whether or not to subscribe to the services offered by Microsoft and Sony. We’ll cover Sony’s PlayStation Plus service in another article, but if you have an Xbox One or an Xbox 360 and are curious about Xbox Live Gold, read on.

What is Xbox Live Gold?

Xbox Live Gold is a subscription service for Xbox One and Xbox 360 console that grants you a bundle of features. The most important features are:

  • Online multiplayer
  • Free games each month
  • Game discounts

Xbox One owners get all of those benefits, plus a few additional ones for players who want to share their play sessions online. For the purposes of this article, we don’t need to get into those now.

How much does an Xbox Live Gold subscription cost?

If you subscribe digitally through your Xbox 360 or Xbox One, the pricing structure breaks down like this: $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, or $59.99 for a year.

However, if you keep an eye on deal sites like SlickDeals, you can often find discounted subscriptions going for around $35 for a year.

Let’s address those features one by one. What is online multiplayer?

Online multiplayer is the main reason most people subscribe to Xbox Live Gold. Anytime a game lets you play with other people who aren’t sitting in the room with you, that’s online multiplayer.

Online multiplayer is a key feature in many of the biggest games on the Xbox platform, including TitanFall, Destiny, Call of Duty, Halo, and many more.

Not everyone wants or needs to play their games online, but if you want to fully experience many modern games, you’ll have to go online to do so.

Source: thinkstock

Source: thinkstock

What’s this about free games?

Aside from online multiplayer, the most obvious reason to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold is the free games. The selection of free games available differs from month to month, but Microsoft always offers at least one game for Xbox One and Xbox 360 per month. The free titles are usually older games, but they’re often very good games that you might have overlooked when they came out.

In 2014, for instance, Microsoft offered 27 free Xbox 360 games to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. These games include Dark Souls, Sleeping Dogs, Saints Row: The Third, Dishonored and Halo: Reach — all of which are very good games and well worth playing.

The Xbox One games offered for free throughout the year weren’t quite as good, which is to be expected, as the system hasn’t been around as long, and has a more barebones library of games. You can expect the selection of free Xbox One games to improve over time.

How do the game discounts work?

Each week, Microsoft selects a handful of games to offer at a discounted rate to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. It calls these selections “Deals with Gold.”

Sometimes the deals are very good, offering subscribers up to 75% off the regular price. The only catch here is that you have to buy these games digitally, which isn’t ideal for people who prefer having their games on disks. You can check out which games are on sale for Xbox Live Gold members any time right here.

Is an Xbox Live Gold subscription worth it?

Probably. If you like playing games online, it’s definitely worthwhile, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to play online with Xbox One or Xbox 360.

Even if you don’t play online, however, an Xbox Live Gold subscription is still probably worth buying for the free games. In 2014, Polygon reports, Microsoft gave Xbox Live Gold members $584 worth of free games. If you paid $60 for a year’s subscription, that’s a heck of a deal.

Granted, you probably won’t care to play all of the games you get for free, but considering the variety on offer, chances are you’ll play enough games to make it a worthwhile investment.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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