Free Xbox 360 Multiplayer Access Probably Temporary

After Microsoft announced free online multiplayer for Games for Windows last week, many gamers wondered if the news would serve as a precursor of things to come to Xbox 360. Without elaborating on future possibilities, the company says no for now.

"Last week we announced that we were taking off the Gold-only restriction for multiplayer gaming over Games for Windows LIVE," a Microsoft representative told GamePro on Tuesday. "For a limited time, we are offering free online multiplayer on Xbox 360 and Games for Windows titles that offer Live cross-platform play."

Supported cross-platform titles include Universe at War, Shadowrun, and Lost Planet: Colonies Edition. The free party of select games is expected to end once the new Xbox 360 system update arrives this fall.

The limited promotion marks the first time that Xbox 360 owners can play others online for free, without having to pay at least US$50 per year for the privilege. Unlike online multiplayer for PlayStation 3 and Wii, which are both free, Microsoft says it charges players a service fee for increased stability and better performance.

Since launch, both Sony and Nintendo have begun closing the gap first pioneered by Xbox Live, suggesting that at some point Microsoft will need to reconsider its online multiplayer fees, provided either Sony or Nintendo can match the experience for free.

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