Xbox Live is out, and the ‘Xbox network’ is in, as Microsoft rebrands its online service

(Xbox Live Image)

After 18 years, Microsoft is retiring the Xbox Live brand.

Members of the Xbox Insider program, an opt-in service that lets customers get early access to new Xbox features, reported that their Xbox UI had begun to replace references to Live with the Xbox network. Similarly, the Microsoft Services Agreement was updated in August to no longer mention Live.

As of this afternoon, Microsoft confirmed that the branding shift is deliberate.

Xbox network refers to the underlying Xbox online service, which was updated in the Microsoft Services Agreement, a Microsoft spokesperson said via email to GeekWire. The update from Xbox Live to Xbox network is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships.

That underlying service has been known as Xbox Live since its launch on the original Xbox in November 2002. No changes to the overall experience are expected.

This does represent another part of an ongoing shift by Microsoft to deemphasize Xbox Live Gold, a subscription service for Xbox consoles that enables online play for compatible games, in favor of its more recent offerings.

An attempt in January to raise the price of the subscription which was perceived at the time as Microsoft trying to incentivize consumers to shift to the pricier but higher-value Xbox Game Pass was quickly shut down following a customer outcry.

In its original form, Xbox Live is arguably the biggest reason why the Xbox took off at all. At the time of its release, Live was the most advanced method of bringing networked play to the console market. Neither of its competitors, the PlayStation 2 or GameCube, offered online access out of the box, and when they did, it was through clunky non-standardized lobby systems. If the Xbox Live branding is going away, its a quiet end for a piece of gaming history.

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