Some of the rumors surrounding Microsoft and the Xbox 720 haven't exactly been very flattering. Blocking used games, requiring an Internet connection to do anything? They've been bad enough that some gamers have already been convinced to jump ship and switch to Sony and the PS4.
Apparently, though, one potentially nice Xbox 720 rumor making the rounds has been the idea that Microsoft would match Sony's PSN strategy (which is to make their basic online service free) by offering free Xbox Live subscriptions.
Currently, Xbox Live Gold subscriptions cost users $60 a year, while playing games online with the PS3 is free. Microsoft hasn't stated anything about the upcoming Xbox 720, so its possible the company will surprise the world with free online play. But after seeing Xbox Live subscriptions soar by 18 percent over the last year, Forbes' Paul Tassi says not to hold your breath.
"There's simply no way on earth that Microsoft would ever consider forfeiting 46 million $60 a year subscriptions, even if it would put them on equal footing with one of the PS3′s [PS4?] selling points," he said. "This is also on top of the cut they take from everything sold on Xbox Live, and the ads they sell which are plastered all over the dashboard."
So what does this mean for Xbox 720 if it actually is always on? It's extremely unlikely Microsoft will require users to have a subscription simply for their new system to function, but chances are if you want to play other people online, you'll have to fork over some dough.
"I could see the system needing to connect to the internet to play games, which is what we traditionally think of when discussing always on, but a forced $60 a year XBL subscription would never fly," Tassi wrote.
"Yes, they may offer a stripped down version of the service to pair with the always on capabilities of the system, but it wouldn't be PSN-level functionality I'm sure, meaning yes, you would still have to pay to play most games online."
Both proposals have always seemed rather silly to me. Like Tassi said, there's no way Redmond would give up this kind of revenue stream, and the idea that it would force people into subscribing to its service after giving up money for their console is farfetched even for Microsoft. Unless the Xbox 720 really will be subsidized and sold for an incredibly cheap price... then who knows?