Everything you need to know about Xbox Game Pass

It's the Netflix of gaming — but it's so much more, too.

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When discussing the merits of the Xbox, PlayStation 5, and PC trigemony, a wise (and somehow ever-present) gamer will often interject about Game Pass, Microsoft's gaming subscription. It's such a great value, they always say.

Microsoft's online services have evolved over the years, so what does Game Pass truly offer? And are there any caveats to watch out for? Let's break that down.


At its core, Game Pass is a subscription game service that offers a rotating catalog of "over 100" games.

There are two tiers, effectively; a $9.99-per-month tier for PC and consoles that gets you access to the games, and then there's Game Pass Ultimate, the high-end tier that primarily gets you Android streaming, but there are some other perks too.

The timeline

Game Pass was first introduced in June 2017 with a fairly limited catalog.

By early 2018 Microsoft was adding big titles to Game Pass — like Halo and Gears of War — on the day of their release.

The Game Pass platform added cloud gaming capabilities (known as xCloud) for Android devices beginning September 2020.

At the same time, EA partnered with Microsoft to bring its EA Play subscription to the Game Pass Ultimate package, too.


Total Game Pass subscribers, as of January 2021.


The deal

Yes, a Game Pass subscription gets you access to an ever-changing library of games, but the thing that makes it a great deal is that Microsoft often brings in games that people really want to play.

The Medium, for example, is a new Xbox exclusive. You can buy it at normal price, of course, but Game Pass subscribers just get it for free. Plus, when you add EA Play to the mix with titles like FIFA 20 and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, the service is bound to have something to suit your taste.


The Ultimate package also includes Xbox Live Gold — a service without which you can't play any Xbox titles in online multiplayer mode.

Is the concept of Xbox Live kind of weird in this day an age? Sure, but with Game Pass it'll save you the $10 this would've cost otherwise.

The Medium, available on Game Pass.

Game Pass on PC and Xbox

If you opt for the $9.99 PC or console tiers you'll be able to pick from Microsoft's Game Pass library. These are native games, so they'll download and install like any other game, no streaming involved.

That might not always be the case, however, as a leak of xCloud running in the browser recently appeared on the web.

Cloud gaming

Microsoft's xCloud project has effectively been absorbed into Game Pass. You just load up game pass on an Android device (and iOS devices soon, presumably), connect a controller, and choose a game from the Game Pass library.

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Halo 2: Anniversary, available on Game Pass.


Microsoft would probably prefer it if you used an Xbox controller with your phone, but if you really want a handheld gaming experience you should look into the Razer Kishi, which we wrote about here. You could go with a cheaper controller like the Flydigi Wee 2T, but the upgrade to the Kishi is seriously worth it.


If you're in the market for either of Microsoft's latest consoles, there's an even better deal available: Xbox All Access.

For $24.99 a month for 24 months — and no money down — you can get an Xbox Series S. Or make it $34.99 a month and you can snag the Series X, if you can find one, that is.

These financing options are... pretty sweet. For a super low outlay you can get next-gen hardware and an instant library of games.

Dragon Age: Inquisition, available on Game Pass.

Game Pass IRL

Game Pass doesn't have every game you'll ever want. But it has a little of everything, including plenty of top-tier Xbox titles new and old, and you can use it anywhere.

As a newbie Xbox owner, Game Pass was a great way to explore new genres without taking a risk on an expensive triple-AA title. I've been able to try out games like The Outer Worlds and Dragon Age: Inquisition, neither of which I would've paid full-price for otherwise.

So is it a good deal? Yeah, absolutely.

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