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Xbox Live subscriptions continue to rise

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With the successor to the Xbox 360 likely to hit stores before the end of the year, you'd think people might hold off on things like an Xbox Live subscription at this point in the console cycle. But apparently the online service is more popular than ever.

Microsoft reports Xbox Live subscriptions hit 46 million worldwide in the most recent fiscal quarter. That's up 18 percent from a year ago.

Put another way: Of the 77 million Xbox 360s the company has sold so far, nearly 60 percent have Live subscriptions tied to them. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is how many of those Microsoft has monetized.

Lisa Nelson, Microsoft’s director of investor relations, tells The Next Web that roughly half of those were income-generating "Gold" accounts (as opposed to the free "Silver" subscriptions).

Those subscribers are forking over more than their annual $60 subscription fee, too. Nelson said transactional revenue generated by Xbox Live is greater than subscription revenue -- which, if TNW's back of envelope math is right, means the average XBL subscriber is spending over $30 per year on downloadable content.

Overall, it's worth noting, the Xbox division had quarterly profits of $342 million, which isn't bad for a seven-year-old system.

The impressive XBL numbers might make investors and analysts happy, but it could be bad news for gamers who were hopeful that Microsoft would more closely mirror Sony in the next generation of systems by offering free multiplayer and interactive elements.

With the division generating what appears to be nearly $3 billion per year in revenue, that's unlikely. We should know a lot more about Microsoft's next-generation plans in late May and in June when E3 kicks off, however.

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