I do not know Michael Pachter from a hole in the wall, and intend to cast no aspersions on his character. In fact, I am actually paying him a very high compliment when I say that he's beginning to feel like a harbinger of doom.
When he predicted that Activision would someday charge for online Call of Duty, a chill went down my spine, because I don't think he's off-base. If the percentages of people on Xbox Live primarily for CoD or Halo multiplayer are even close to correct, and were I running the show at Activision, I don't know that I'd be able to resist charging for the service, either.
Now Mr. Pachter is topping off the sundae of dissatisfaction at Microsoft's recent price hike for Xbox Live with the suggestion that we may see a $100 "Platinum Service" offered in the future. What worries me about the potential for this move is that it reminds me of Project Ten Dollar, in that in order to offer "premium" or "bonus" services to customers, baseline functionality which may have previously been free has to be moved over into the "paid" column in order to justify charging more.
A preferable way to handle an increased fee structure on Xbox Live might be to make services such as Netflix and the upcoming Hulu functionality paid services. For a decreased annual fee, I don't know that I'd mind giving up streaming Netflix. A basic Netflix subscription includes one DVD out at a time, and they're relatively quick about getting you a new disc when you return an old one. I don't know that I ever intend to use Hulu. Xbox Live Gold is about online play and demos for me, and if that's all I got for $50 in lieu of missing out on other aspects of the total service, I'd be quite fine with it.
I agree that Xbox Live is a real value at $50. One only has to look at its vibrant, friendly menus compared to the (mostly) free PlayStation Live service to see where the money is going. We get what we pay for, and when I first hooked up my PS3 I was shocked at how messy and unintutive the dashboard felt. From an aesthetic and technical perspective, Xbox Live feels solidly established to me as the superior interface and software. Thus, I don't mind paying for it.
What I would mind is paying more for aspects of the service I don't want. Once again, Mr. Pachter has looked into his crystal ball and come back with news from the ether that I really didn't want to hear. At least he dishes out the pain to everyone, not just the fans.
Dennis Scimeca is the Editor in Chief of the website Game Kudos and a writer at Gamer Limit.. If you tweet him @DennisScimeca, he will pull himself away from Civ Revolution on his iPhone and get right back to you.