Microsoft has explained the recent hike in Xbox Live subscription costs and pointed towards Xbox 360 exclusives as justification that gamers are getting their money's worth.

In August Microsoft announced that the price of an Xbox Live Gold membership would increase for selected packages in the US, Canada, UK and Mexico.

The price increases, which triggered yesterday with the Xbox 360 dashboard update, saw an increase in one month ($7.99 to $9.99), three month ($19.99 to $24.99) and 12 month ($49.99 to $59.99) gold subs in the US.

The only change in the UK is to the price of a one month Gold subscription: from £4.99 to £5.99.

"Back in 2002, we launched at 49 bucks, which works out to about $4.17 a month, and we've held steady for that entire time," Craig Davison of Microsoft's Xbox Live marketing told Gamasutra.

"Now what we've always been very passionate about is that quality needs to be there, but more importantly, the consistency. So if I'm playing Halo: Reach, Gears of War, Call of Duty, the consistency of the service and the experience needs to be there regardless of what that entertainment application is.

"So that has been critical. As you can imagine, the costs associated with maintaining a service at that level and making sure all of those features are consistent, we're hitting that quality bar, we're adding the customer service infrastructure necessary, we're accommodating all of the same social features and functionality too, there's a cost. Infrastructure costs, of course. And we're continuing to bring more and more content."

When asked to justify the increase at a time when the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network offers its core online services free, Davison pointed to Xbox 360 exclusives.

"In 2002 it was strictly multiplayer gaming," he said. "Now we get those Call of Duty map packs before anybody else does. We've got Gears and Halo, of course, as exclusives. We continue to get exclusives on the service as well. And we've gone from 400,000 members in our first year to 25 million.

"So during that time, we've definitely got to fund it, and we want to add more and more and more. ESPN is a great example. No extra charge for Xbox Live Gold members. But we want to continue to bring that content in. We also want to continue to innovate on all dimensions, whether it's social, entertainment, or gaming. So there you go."

At E3 2010 in June Microsoft announced an "exclusive multi-year agreement between Xbox and Activision" that will see Call of Duty add-ons and map packs appearing first on Xbox 360 for the next three years. The extent and duration of the individual add-ons' exclusivity wasn't discussed.

Last year Microsoft announced a tie-up that saw the first two downloadable add-ons for Modern Warfare 2 appear exclusively on Xbox 360 for 30 days each.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

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