Just to be clear, we don't go around believing everything that industry analyst Michael Pachter says. He was, after all, rather spectacularly wrong about how well Red Dead Redemption would do at retail. However, he's actually said something very interesting today that is cause for thought.
His thinking is that Microsoft's recently-announced hike in Xbox Live Gold subscription rates (which he called, admittedly) has come in to boost revenue with the aim of using the money to develop a third tier on the Xbox Live subscription options. We already have the basic Silver and premium Gold memberships - Pachter reckons we'll have a 'Platinum' level membership option in the not-too distant future. For $100. Ouch. Here's what he believes that would mean for you.
The current Gold membership appears at first glance to offer everything an online gamer could want. Online play, cross-game voice chat, movies to download and demos to play. Some content is even available early to Gold subscribers, compared to the free Silver membership that comes with every console. So what could a 'Platinum' service offer to top that?
Gold subscribers can already get Sky TV (at extra cost), so it would be very welcome if Network/'terrestrial' channels were available on the dashboard as part of a Platinum subscription package. If Sky TV itself were bundled in, it would be better still.
Above: Sky Player as it is on Xbox 360. Decent-ish picture quality, but we would pay more for HD TV stations
We already have MS Points, but Pachter suggests a credit system could allow Platinum subscribers to buy exclusive content for games like Halo, such as new weapons or custom armour. This wouldn't cost Microsoft very much to implement, but could get fans interested in the service right away.
Gold subscribers are already supposed to get some preferential treatment when it comes to demos, but offering beta access to Platinum subscribers would again be a massive pull for the more dedicated gamers among us. Would you pay $100 a year to be able to play Modern Warfare 3 before the rest of the world? I know a lot of people who would.
Pachter reckons iTunes 'management' could be part of the service. It may sound completely unlikely given Apple's usual stance on its properties, but remember that Xbox 360 already has a specific downloadable update to allow iPods to connect to the custom soundtrack option in games. I can't really imagine my Xbox 360 hard drive being full of my iTunes library and buying the Djerv album (when it finally comes out) via the Xbox dashboard. But stranger things have happened. Facebook's on it, after all.
Above: iTunes... on Xbox Live? We'll believe it when we see it
Someone once advised me that Pachter most likely has insider information when it comes to 'predicting' these things. That may or may not be true. But looking at the evidence with the price increase of Gold and the recent launch of PlayStation Plus, it doesn't seem like Microsoft is likely to offer anything for free.
Would you pay more for an even better Xbox Live service? Let us know in the comments.
3 Sep, 2010