Hot on the heels of recent Xbox Live price hikes, industry analyst Michael Pachter has predicted that Microsoft will soon roll out a $100 “premium” subscription plan.

Microsoft jacked up the prices for Xbox Live Gold memberships earlier this week, taking the annual subscription rate in the U.S. from $49.99 to $59.99. Ten bucks over the course of a year is hardly a deal-breaker (although you might think otherwise based on some reactions to the news) but there’s probably more to come, according to Pachter, who believes that Microsoft is gearing up to roll out a new, higher-priced premium subscription tier.

“The extra $10 [from the price increase] translates to around $100 – $150 million per year in additional revenue for Microsoft. I think that they will reinvest at least this much in developing other new applications, and will roll out a premium service with $100 – $200 million worth of enhancements,” he told IndustryGamers. “If they can get two million users to switch from the $60 plan to the $100 plan, they’ll make an extra $80 million a year and can keep investing to try to grow that business.”

What could Microsoft offer to attract members to the new plan? Pachter said a “Platinum plan” could include exclusive items for use in Microsoft games and possibly more advanced media center applications. “If members could get specialized Halo armor or weapons worth the extra $40, they might be more willing to sign up, and it doesn’t really cost Microsoft anything to offer things like that,” he said. He even suggested that Microsoft could make a deal with Apple to allow 360 owners to manage their iTunes accounts through their consoles.

$100 a year may seem steep, especially if you’re in a twist over the jump to $60 for the Gold membership, but when you consider what else you could get with the eight bucks a month it works out to – a pack of smokes, a cheap lunch, three or four decent cups of coffee – it’s hardly an outrageous sum. Pachter’s prediction, which echoes statements he made late last year, isn’t all that terribly outrageous either; as the number and variety of online services available to console users continues to grow, new, higher-end rates plans are inevitable. An “independent source,” meanwhile, told Eurogamer that Microsoft is “likely to introduce a premium Xbox Live offering at a higher price point than existing subscription options.”

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