Microsoft have announced new pricing of Xbox Live in North America, with the price of the Starter Kit rising by $20 to $69.99 by the Autumn of this year.


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The new pricing will also see the Xbox Live communicator headset sold on it's own for the first time, priced at $29.99 (about 20), and a yearly subscription will cost $49.99 - the same as the full price of the Xbox Live starter kit at launch, just without any hardware. Additional monthly subscription will be available for $5.99 per month (about 4) providing an alternative to an up-front yearly payment.

General opinion of the new pricing structure appears to have been well received so far by gamers on several Xbox forums, who were expecting higher renewal fees to be levied. However it's still not known how well the headsets will last from extened amounts of usage, and could prove costly if in a year you're having to buy both a renewal and headset seperately.

More interesting though is the announcement of a two month free trial, which Microsoft hope will let more people "experience the thrill of Xbox Live". It's assumed that the free trial will come with any new Xbox Live enabled game, and will see gamers having to purchase the communicator seperately for $29.99 - if they then want to continue after the trial they'll have to pay the monthly fee or pay $49.99 for the renewal subscription, meaning they'll either end up paying more overall than if they'd just bought a Starter Kit, or being left with a somewhat useless headset if they decide not to continue with the service.


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The question now is if Microsoft are planning on bringing the price rises to the UK, which might not be as popular with gamers as broadband costs are generally higher in the UK, and coverage is severely limited with only a small percentage of homes connected to broadband currently.

More welcome in Europe might be the introduction of pre-paid subscription cards, and the removal of the need for a credit card to be used during the sign-up process, even if it's simply to include Switch/Maestro debit cards as an option for people who don't have (or want to use) a credit card.

We expect further details about Xbox Live pricing, and general announcements about the service to be made next week at Microsoft's pre-E3 press conference, and we'll bring you all the details as soon as they're announced.