In November 2002, one year after the Xbox first launched, Microsoft shipped out the Xbox Live starter kit. The package, which included a headset, a year of Xbox Live, and a minigame, separated itself from other console online solutions by bundling the network adapter into the console and then selling itself as a subscription. It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that it set the course for a lot of console gaming in the ensuing two decades.
Today, in a somewhat unpublicized funeral, we say goodbye to Xbox Live as it undergoes a name change to Xbox Network.
The rumors had been circulating for a few days, as several Xbox messages changed from Live to Network over the weekend. The hints go back even further to last Summer, when the services agreement changed, prompting speculation that Xbox Live Gold might be going away. Tech news outlet The Verge confirmed with Microsoft today that at least the name change is official.
As it stands now, Xbox Network is the top-level name for all things online under the Xbox umbrella, with the different functions like Gold, Game Pass, Game Pass Ultimate, etc. underneath it.
Which leaves the question of why. Looking at Microsoft’s previous plans to raise the price of Gold, presumably they were expecting to start trying to migrate Xbox Live Gold users over to Game Pass Ultimate by trying to price them out. At that point, using the words “Xbox Live” for a service people don’t see the name of when they subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate might have just been confusing. They backed off that plan, but these wheels have likely been in motion for a while as evidenced by the service agreement changes, so these seemingly just went ahead.
Ultimately it isn’t a big deal, but it’s interesting to see something change after a few decades of being the same.