As Xbox inches closer to acquiring Call of Duty and Candy Crush publisher Activision Blizzard, it is also rebranding its long-running Xbox Live Gold service to unify it under the Game Pass subscription fold. And while it is a smart move to bring everything under one umbrella, confusion over multiplayer access still remains intact.
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In September, Xbox Live Gold will cease to exist; instead, it will be converted to Game Pass Core, a new tier in the Netflix-like subscription service that is slightly cheaper and also slightly limited in terms of how much access players will have over the Game Pass catalogue.
What was Xbox Live Gold?
Xbox Live Gold was introduced in 2002 as a means to offer subscribers access to online multiplayer and grab free games every month as part of Games With Gold. These free games included a variety of first-party and third-party titles, ranging from Xbox 360 games to Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Players also received discounts on games and DLCs as part of the subscription.
How is It different to Game Pass Core?
With Game Pass Core, players will still have access to online multiplayer and membership discounts, but Games With Gold will be replaced with a small catalogue of 25 games that includes titles like Among Us, Dishonored 2, Doom Eternal, Gears 5, Halo 5, Fallout 4, Hellblade, Psychonauts 2, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and more.
This is reminiscent of what PlayStation offered for new PS5 users back in 2020 as part of the PlayStation Collection, which offered a suite of first-party and third-party games. While PlayStation intended that collection to be a starting point for new PlayStation owners with games like The Last of Us Remastered, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, God of War, Ratchet and Clank, and more, Xbox hopes that Game Pass Core would entice players to go for higher tiers in the subscription service to access the full slate of Game Pass games.
Regarding optics, the new Game Pass Core tier is a smart move from Xbox to move away from the monthly bad PR it could receive due to the lacklustre offering of games on Games With Gold. When you are paying for a service like Games With Gold, you expect good quality content, but the past few months (and some would argue, the past few years) have been, let’s just say, not that good.
In July, Games With Gold provided two small and unknown titles such as Darkwood and When the Past Was Around, and in June, it offered Adios and The Vale: Shadow of the Crown. Now there is some merit in offering small indie games to find a gem in the rough. Still, the lack of big titles was evidence that Games With Gold wasn’t pulling in much, especially with Xbox entirely focused on strengthening its Game Pass service.
However, introducing the new tier also brings some confusion over pricing and online multiplayer access. Before Game Pass Core, Xbox users must be subscribed to Xbox Live and Game Pass separately to access online multiplayer and all the Game Pass titles.
With Game Pass Core, things get a little muddy. The Game Pass Core tier is priced at $9.99 (AED 37) and includes online multiplayer access and 25 Game Pass titles. The Game Pass Console tier, priced higher at $10.99 (AED 40), does not include online multiplayer access but provides access to the entire Game Pass Library. However, the Game Pass PC tier, priced similarly to Game Pass Core at $9.99, includes online multiplayer and full Game Pass library access (as well as EA Play membership).
Should you just get Game Pass Ultimate?
Essentially, if you are an Xbox user and want access to both online multiplayer and the entire Game Pass library, you must subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate for $16.99 (AED 62), including Game Pass PC and EA Play membership.
It is confusing why Xbox has gone with such pricing for the Game Pass tiers. On one side, they want all of their users to be subscribed to Game Pass, but they pay-gate a basic thing like multiplayer access to a lower-priced tier that doesn’t even include full Game Pass access. And if you are an Xbox-only user, you are forced to pay a premium for services you may not even want, like Game Pass PC.
Microsoft and Xbox had the chance here to standardise online multiplayer access across all Game Pass tiers to make things simpler, but they have only added to the confusion and come across like they are arm-twisting their core users into paying more for basic services. Of course, $16.99 is still incredible value for a service like Game Pass that will potentially get a flood of great titles this and next year, but I would wager that most users would love to opt for a slightly lower-priced tier that offered everything.