July seems like the month of Microsoft. The company recently won a huge legal battle over the FTC and signed a binding agreement to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for the next 10 years, which essentially removes one of the biggest hurdles that has prevented Xbox from acquiring Activision Blizzard. But Phil Spencer giveth, Phil Spencer taketh away, as Microsoft is officially ending the Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Games With Gold programs. However, the replacement is arguably superior.
This week, Xbox announced the latest addition to its Xbox Game Pass subscription lineup: Xbox Game Pass Core. This new tier of the service takes a page out of the PlayStation Plus playbook by merging the Xbox multiplayer service with its Netflix-like Game Pass. For $9.99 a month (or $60 a year) gamers can play online multiplayer titles on Xbox, receive special membership deals and discounts, and access a monthly library of complimentary games. These titles aren’t “free” since you’re still paying $10 a month to play all of them, but that’s still cheaper than paying $60-70 for one game. Assuming you don’t mind essentially renting titles instead of owning them, that is.
While we still have to wait until September to get our hands on Xbox Game Pass Core, it already seems like a better solution to Xbox’s basic-tier subscription service, thanks to the collection of games that come bundled with the membership. During the heyday of Xbox Live Gold, players would receive four complimentary games per month — two current-gen titles, two previous-gen games. Xbox Game Pass Core, meanwhile, includes a library of over 25 games to play per month, with new titles added two to three times a year, according to Xbox Wire. In other words, subscribers will have way more offerings than just a trickle of titles. Here are the titles Xbox has announced for the service thus far:
- Among Us
- Dishonored 2
- Doom Eternal
- Fable Anniversary
- Fallout 4
- Fallout 76
- Forza Horizon 4
- Gears 5
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Wars 2
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Human Fall Flat
- Ori & The Will of the Wisps
- Psychonauts 2
- State of Decay 2
- The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
When Games With Gold first launched in 2013 for Xbox Live Gold subscribers, it was hailed as an innovative new offering on the digital service, but in the decade since its launch, Xbox has clearly prioritized Game Pass in terms of the sheer number of titles and perks on offer, including a library that includes day one first-party releases. Live Gold’s much smaller monthly offering now feels archaic in comparison. Xbox Game Pass Core’s library will cast a much wider net of game genres that will offer more options to players at the $9.99 tier.
In fact, Xbox Game Pass Core will also improve on the Game Pass model by fixing an issue players have been complaining about for some time: the pricing model. Currently, Game Pass has three tiers. These include the $9.99 “PC” and $10.99 “Console” tiers, which give audiences access to the games library, but if you want to use any of their multiplayer modes, you need to purchase the “Ultimate” tier for $16.99.
Xbox Game Pass Core has a significantly smaller library, yes, but it also includes multiplayer for the same price as the “Console” tier prior to the recent $1 price hike. Quite frankly, that sounds like a much better deal, especially since Game Pass Core will start strong with titles such as Doom Eternal, Psychonauts 2, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Admittedly, Xbox Game Pass Core isn’t a perfect replacement to Live Gold. The switch to the Game Pass model means users won’t be able to keep the games they’ve downloaded after they leave the Game Pass Core library unless they buy it at a discount, while Live Gold gave players access to the games they redeemed for as long as they were subscribed to that service. Still, at least on paper, Xbox Game Pass sounds like a great evolution. Here’s hoping it actually is one and/or isn’t handicapped later down the line.
Xbox Live Gold members will automatically be switched over to Game Pass Core on Sept. 14. Players will continue to have access to any Games With Gold titles they redeemed previously under Xbox Live Gold as long as they continue their Game Pass Core membership, but Xbox 360 titles acquired through Games With Gold will remain in player’s libraries regardless of whether they’re a Core member or not.