Xbox Game Pass: How It Works, Cost, and Games List

Xbox Series X

Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft’s gaming subscription service for Xbox consoles as well as Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs. You get all-you-can-play access to a library of games along with other services like experimental cloud gaming support for one monthly fee. However, three different tiers are available: Xbox Game Pass, PC Game Pass, and Game Pass Ultimate.

Xbox Game Pass is an increasingly popular subscription service, giving you access to a massive collection of games and connected services for one monthly fee. Xbox Game Pass works on Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs as well as Xbox consoles like the Xbox Series X and Xbox One.

Microsoft introduced Game Pass back in 2017 as a simple $9.99 per month subscription service. At the start, it had around 100 games that you could download and install on your Xbox console — there was no PC or cloud support at the time. The service has grown substantially since then, with more games, a partnership with publisher EA, a PC option, and experimental cloud gaming support.

How Does Xbox Game Pass Work?

Xbox Game Pass gives you unlimited access to a collection of games for one monthly cost. It’s intended as an alternative to buying every single game you want individually — an expensive proposition when many new major titles start at $70. The exact pricing varies by region and which tier you select, but it generally works out to be cheaper than buying 2-3 new major games at launch each year.

On Xbox, the games included in Game Pass can be downloaded to your console just like any regular digital game purchase. The service works on the Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One X, Xbox One S, and Xbox One. On PC, the games are listed in the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 and Windows 11, and you can browse through them with the Xbox app. No matter which platform you’re on, you can download as many games from Game Pass as you want and play them whenever you want — as long as they remain on the Game Pass service.

The main downside with Game Pass is that some games eventually leave the service. However, Microsoft does offer discounts on purchasing any games on Game Pass until they are fully removed from the service. That’s not just useful for games leaving the service — most titles are available to purchase outright at a discount for Game Pass subscribers, which then remain accessible on your account forever.

Cities: Skylines listing
Cities: Skylines is included in Game Pass, but subscribers can also purchase it to own at a discount.

There are a few other minor catches with the service, but most of them are understandable. Most games don’t include all available content under Game Pass, but the extra content might be available at a discount. For example, Cities: Skylines – Xbox One Edition is on Game Pass (at the time of writing), but you don’t get expansions included. The Financial Districts add-on costs $7.99, but Game Pass subscribers get a 10% discount.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate vs. Console vs. PC

There are three different tiers of Game Pass. The first is the simple console version, usually called Xbox Game Pass, which allows you to play anything from the collection on your Xbox consoles. There’s also PC Game Pass, which works the same, except for Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs instead of Xbox and includes access to EA Play. Those tiers are aimed at people who mostly only use one platform or the other.

For anyone who plays on both Xbox and PC, or wants more features, there’s Game Pass Ultimate. It’s the most expensive option, but it allows you to download and play games on both Xbox and PC. Game Pass Ultimate also includes Xbox Live Gold, which is required for online multiplayer in many games, and EA Play.

Game Pass Ultimate also includes Cloud Gaming, previously known as xCloud. The feature allows you to stream the Xbox versions of games to a phone, tablet, or PC, as long as you have a decent internet connection and a compatible controller. Even though some Xbox games support keyboard and mouse input, Cloud Gaming does not. You can use web apps like Gamepad Tester to see if the web version of Cloud Gaming will work with your setup.

Xbox Game Streaming on a Mac
Deep Rock Galactic in cloud gaming on a Mac

Your save files are synchronized across your consoles and Cloud Gaming, so you could start Fallout 4 on an Xbox, and then pick it back up on your phone. It even works on Xbox consoles, so if you’re not sure if something from Game Pass is worth downloading, you could stream it for a while first. It’s a great feature, but it’s mainly intended as a bonus perk, rather than your primary method of playing games.

How Much Is Xbox Game Pass?

As of February 2023, the Xbox Game Pass price and PC Game Pass price are both $9.99 per month. Game Pass Ultimate costs $14.99 per month. Unlike some other subscription services, Microsoft doesn’t offer any discounts if you pay for an entire year at once.

You can sign up or see the latest pricing from the official Game Pass site. Game Pass subscriptions are also sold as digital codes and physical cards at many stores, like Amazon and Target. Make sure you pick the right option though — the console-only Xbox Game Pass won’t be too helpful if you only have a gaming PC.


Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (3 Months)

Xbox Ultimate Game pass gives you access to hundreds of games for both Xbox and PC. New games are added all the time, including brand new games.

Physical cards and digital codes for Game Pass can stack in your Microsoft account. For example, if you receive two physical 3 Month Membership cards, you can enter the redeem codes in your account to use the service for 6 months straight without paying again. Microsoft’s support site says you can stack up to 36 months in your account at once.

Xbox Game Pass Game List: What Games Are On Game Pass?

Many of the games available through Game Pass are developed and published by Microsoft and its many subsidiaries, collectively called Xbox Game Studios. That includes studios like 343 Industries, Mojang Studios, Obsidian Entertainment, and Rare. Microsoft finished its acquisition of ZeniMax Media in 2021, which in turn owns Bethesda, Id Software, MachineGames, and other groups. Microsoft’s complex web of corporate acquisitions means Game Pass includes games like Minecraft, the Halo series, Forza Horizon 5, Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, Sea of Thieves, and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Skyrim image
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one Microsoft-owned game available on Game Pass.

New games published by Xbox Game Studios are added to Game Pass at the same time they are released, and typically never leave the service, unlike the third-party games that rotate in and out. There have only been a few exceptions, like Forza Motorsport 7, which was pulled from both Game Pass and all stores in 2021 due to expiring licenses for cars and tracks.

Game Pass PC and Game Pass Ultimate also include access to EA Play, which has its own collection of games from Electronic Arts. Some examples include FIFA 22, GRID Legends, The Sims, Battlefield 2042, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, Dirt 5, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and many others.

Microsoft has a full list of available games on its website, with filters to browse by platform and other options. Not every game on PC is available on Xbox, and vice-versa. For example, Fallout 2 was only ever released for PC, so you can’t download it on a console. Gears of War 2 is the opposite, as it’s an Xbox 360 game that runs in emulation on modern Xbox consoles, but was never released for PC. You can play many of the Xbox-only games through Cloud Gaming on PC, at least.

Can I Buy The Game I Play on Game Pass?

Yes, you can purchase any game available on Game Pass, which is then permanently saved to your Microsoft account as a digital game. Some games on Game Pass are also available at a discounted rate for subscribers, but the sale varies by game and how long ago it was released.

Microsoft explains the discount structure on its official Game Pass FAQ. New games that are less than 31 days old have no discount on Game Pass, but titles released 31-90 days ago are “up to 10%” off to purchase. After that, you can get “up to a 20% discount.” Not every game follows that exact pattern, but it applies to most titles. Game Pass subscribers can also purchase DLC and add-on content at “up to a 10% discount” from the day the add-on is released.

Many of the games available through Game Pass also receive regular sales available to everyone, either through the Microsoft Store or regular retailers (Amazon, Best Buy, etc.), sometimes for more than 20% off. Before you buy a game with the Game Pass discount, do a quick search at your favorite stores to see if it’s already on sale at a better price.

What Happens to the Game and My Save Data When It Goes Off Game Pass?

Microsoft backs up all save data to your Microsoft account, no matter where the game is from. The save data will remain stored in the cloud, so if you play a game that leaves Game Pass, you’ll be able to pick back up where you left off after obtaining the game again. No active subscription is required to keep game data in the cloud, not even Xbox Live Gold.

Can I Use Xbox Game Pass On Multiple Consoles?

Yes, subscriptions like Game Pass are tied to your Microsoft account, not specific consoles. That means you can have multiple Xbox consoles under the same account that all have access to Game Pass, but you can’t play games on them simultaneously. Microsoft is testing a plan that allows sharing a subscription with friends and family, but it’s not available in most regions at the time of writing.

Can You Get Free Xbox Game Pass?

The main way to get Game Pass for free is through Microsoft Rewards. The program gives you points by shopping at the Microsoft Store, using the Bing search engine, or even playing select games and completing surveys on your Xbox console. You can then redeem the points for, among other things, 1 month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Game Pass on Microsoft Rewards

The downside is that rewards points are generated very slowly, even if you use Bing for all your web searches. You can speed it up by regularly visiting the Microsoft Rewards homepage and checking what activities are available. Unfortunately, only the most expensive Game Pass Ultimate is available through Microsoft Rewards, not the cheaper Xbox Game Pass or PC Game Pass.

Besides that, Game Pass Ultimate and Game Pass PC only cost $1 for the first month, which is almost free. Microsoft has partnered with a few companies to bundle free Game Pass with some products, like select Legion gaming laptops from Lenovo, but some of those promotions are only valid if you’re a new customer. You can also convert Xbox Live Gold time into Game Pass Ultimate, at a conversion rate that varies by region.

Can I Play With Friends on Steam or PlayStation With Game Pass Games?

Online multiplayer with Game Pass games is simple on Xbox consoles. If a game has online multiplayer, you can play with anyone else on Xbox — no matter if the other person got the game through Game Pass, a digital purchase, or a physical disc. The game is identical no matter where it came from.

The situation is more complicated on PC. Many people on PC purchase and play games through Steam, or EA (Origin), but Game Pass games on PC are delivered through the Microsoft Store. Steam games generally only support Steam’s online services, while Microsoft Store games generally use Xbox cloud services. You can think of Microsoft Store/Game Pass and Steam as different platforms, in much the same way the PS5 and Nintendo Switch are different platforms, even though both services give you a game made for the same PC hardware and software.

Deep Rock Galactic image
Deep Rock Galactic has cross-play between Xbox and PC on Microsoft Store, but not the Steam version.

For example, Fallout 76 from Bethesda is on Game Pass for both Xbox and PC. The Xbox version can play with other Xbox players, and the Microsoft Store/Game Pass version on PC can play with other Microsoft/Steam players and anyone who purchased the game on Steam. However, PC players can’t join Xbox players, and vice-versa. Deep Rock Galactic is also on Game Pass for both Xbox and PC, but works differently — PC and Xbox players can join the same games, but the Steam game is not compatible with the Microsoft Store/Game Pass PC version.

If that sounds really complicated, it’s because it is complicated! PC gaming is a diverse ecosystem with many different ecosystems for playing games, adding on top to the already-challenging task of allowing people on different console platforms to join the same games.

The only way to know if a game from Game Pass (whether on PC or Xbox) has cross-play with versions on Steam or other consoles is to check the game’s support website, or discussion threads on sites like Steam or Reddit.

Xbox Live vs. Game Pass: What’s the Difference?

Xbox Live, now officially called “Xbox network,” is the free online service that powers all Xbox consoles, such as sharing screenshots and synchronizing save data. The term also sometimes refers to Xbox Live Gold, which is a subscription service that is required for most online gaming on Xbox consoles, with free-to-play games like Fortnite as exceptions. Xbox Live Gold also regularly has discounts on purchasing games.

The main difference between the two services is that Game Pass has many games included in the subscription, while Xbox Live Gold does not. There are a few games available for free to Live Gold subscribers, but they only stick around if you remember to claim them while they are available — usually for a month or so. Most of the games provided through Xbox Live Gold are older titles or indie games, while Game Pass has dozens of major releases at any given time.

Xbox Live Gold costs $9.99 per month in the United States, as of February 2023, and Xbox Game Pass is a separate subscription $9.99 per month. If you know you want both, Game Pass Ultimate costs $14.99 per month and includes all the features of both Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass, as well as more features (like PC games).

Does Game Pass Include Gold?

Game Pass Ultimate includes Xbox Live Gold, which is the subscription that also provides access to PC games and games from EA Play on both platforms. However, the regular Xbox Game Pass (which only gives you access to Xbox games) does not include Xbox Live Gold.

How Much Is Xbox Live Gold?

Xbox Live Gold on its own is $9.99 per month in the United States, as of February 2023. That’s the same price as the base Xbox Game Pass or PC Game Pass.


Xbox Live Gold: 12 Month Membership

Xbox Live Gold gives you access to online multiplayer in all games, plus exclusive discounts on purchasing games and occasional free games to claim.

If you want Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass together, it makes more sense to just get Game Pass Ultimate, which includes all the features of both subscriptions and additional functionality at a lower cost ($15/mo vs. two $10/mo subscriptions).

How to Manage Xbox Subscriptions

You can check your active subscriptions on your console by pressing the Xbox button on the controller, and navigating to Profile & system > Settings > Account > Subscriptions. You can also do it on any device with a web browser, if you log into and click the ‘Services & subscriptions’ tab.

Microsoft subscriptions page image

The page will display any active subscriptions, including Game Pass or Xbox Live Gold, with options to turn recurring billing on or off.

Original Article