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The New Game Pass Price Increases Are Downright Nefarious

The long-rumored Game Pass price hike is finally here, and it’s much worse than expected. Every tier will be affected, with one being entirely replaced by a more expensive and arguably worse offer. Game Pass Ultimate, the all-access tier that provides online multiplayer on Xbox consoles as well as Game Pass on console, PC, and cloud, is increasing in price from $17 to $20. PC Game Pass is also getting an increase, from $10 to $12, and Xbox Game Pass Core, the rebranded Xbox Live Gold, will from $60 to $75 annually, but remain at $10 a month.




Price increases that offer no extra value are frustrating, but to be expected in the subscription era. Streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and Max have worn us down with annual price hikes to the point where it’s difficult to find the energy to even get mad about them anymore. You might even convince me that $20/month for the best gaming subscription around is still a good value, but the change Microsoft is making to the standard console tier goes so far beyond a simple price increase. The new Game Pass Standard tier will force console-only players to pay more for less, or keep their current subscription forever out of fear of losing it.


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The Game Pass naming schemes are confusing, but I’ll try to make this as simple as possible. Game Pass for Console, the $11 basic service that provides full access to Game Pass for Xbox users, will no longer be available to new subscribers. In its place is a new $15 tier called Game Pass Standard, which includes access to online multiplayer (Game Pass for Console did not) but does not include day one releases. You get to pay $48 more to not have access to Fable, Perfect Dark, Black Ops 6, Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, Doom: The Dark Ages, or Gears of War: E-Day.

Having access to launch titles is the biggest selling point for Game Pass. That’s not just my opinion, it’s Xbox’s. You can see that on Xbox Game Pass for Console’s store page. “Play new games the same day they launch” is the first thing you see, right at the top. Now Microsoft is getting rid of that feature for console players in an attempt to push them into the more expensive Game Pass Ultimate tier. The fact that both Ultimate and this new Standard tier are more expensive than previous offers just adds insult to injury.


To be fair, Standard will now include online multiplayer, which the current Game Pass for Console subscription does not. People who wanted Game Pass and online were already subscribed to Ultimate, so there’s a very thin niche of players that will benefit from this new option. If you’re the kind of person who has an Xbox but not a PC, has no interest in cloud gaming, and likes to play games online but only plays old games, Game Pass for Console will save you a few bucks a month. In reality, Game Pass Standard is the medium-sized fountain drink at the movie theater that only costs 50 cents less than the large one: an intentionally unattractive offer designed to make the more expensive option look better.


Game Pass Core, the most confusingly-named tier, includes online multiplayer but
not
the Game Pass library, just 25 games.

Current Game Pass for Console subscribers can keep their $11 sub and access to new games as long as they never cancel or let their subscription lapse. This might seem generous at first blush, but this is a common tactic cell phone companies use to maintain subscribers. People with these so-called ‘grandfathered’ plans are afraid to lose such a great deal and feel like they deserve their plan for being such long-time customers. Instead of pausing their subscriptions when they’re using the service less often, legacy subscribers will feel like they are forced to keep their subscriptions going. From Microsoft’s perspective, it’s a win-win.


What’s most disappointing about these changes are what they say about Game Pass. Watching it follow the same path as every other stagnant subscription service all but proves that the Game Pass dream is dead. It’s no longer growing its user base, so Microsoft will start increasing the price and decreasing the value to achieve something that looks like profitability on a financial report. It will continue to get worse and worse, just like Netflix and Amazon, as it slowly squeezes its remaining customers, always asking for more and offering less.

I can foresee what will happen if it keeps going down this road. PC subscribers will lose access to new releases, then Microsoft will introduce Ultimate Plus with new benefits that should have been added to Ultimate to balance out the price increases. One day, new releases may not be part of Game Pass at all. Price hikes are one thing, but this is a disappointing direction that doesn’t bode well for the future of Game Pass.


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Game Pass: New Price And Tier Changes, Explained

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