This article was updated at 9:27 GMT on March 23 with additional comment from Microsoft.
Users noticed that the platform holder had seemingly removed some references to “Xbox Live” from its console dashboard on Sunday, replacing them with the blanket term “Xbox network”.
In a statement issued to VGC, Microsoft confirmed that change but suggested that it was not indicative of any alterations to the online service itself.
“’Xbox network’ refers to the underlying Xbox online service, which was updated in the Microsoft Services Agreement,” a spokesperson said. “The update from ‘Xbox Live’ to ‘Xbox network’ is intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships.”
UPDATE: Microsoft has provided VGC with an additional statement: “Xbox Live isn’t going away. We are making ongoing adjustments to create a simpler, more descriptive messaging system for Xbox in different areas. None of these experiences or features will change as part of these updates.”
The change follows months of speculation that Microsoft could eventually move to phase out its Xbox Live Gold paid subscription service, due to the popularity of its Game Pass subscription offering.
Last summer it was reported by multiple sources that the long-running service could be repackaged or phased out and multiplayer made available for free. Further fuelling speculation, the company updated its services agreement and removed most references to Xbox Live.
At the time, a Microsoft spokesperson told VGC that, “there are no changes being made to the experience of the service or Xbox Live Gold.”
Microsoft recently u-turned on plans which would have seen the price of a six-month Xbox Live Gold subscription increase by 50% to $60.
The company said it had “messed up” following a negative response from fans and also confirmed it would remove the requirement for Xbox Live Gold to play free-to-play games.
On Sunday, Verge reporter Tom Warren said he did not know what was happening with Xbox Live Gold, but claimed the recent price backlash “was certainly a wake up call internally at Microsoft.”
In 2019, Microsoft began bundling Gold with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service in the form of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $14.99/£10.99 per month and features on demand gaming and access to EA Play.