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Microsoft Ditches Xbox Live Gold, Announces Game Pass Core – and a Potential Consumer Nightmare

Xbox Game Pass Core

We’ve been saying it for years, and it’s finally happening: Microsoft is ditching Xbox Live Gold. But not in the way that it should. Essentially, it’s simply changing its name and dropping monthly Games With Gold. From 14th September, Xbox Live Gold becomes Xbox Game Pass Core.

We reported earlier today about a leaked potential change to Xbox Live Gold, which Microsoft officially announced shortly after. Game Pass Core is the “evolution” of Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft says. But in just about every way, it’s the same thing. Except a little bit worse. Instead of giving you two free games every month, you’ll get access to a library of “over 25 games”, which will be updated two or three times a year.

The initial library of games is rather basic, featuring a small selection of Game Pass games that we’d go out on a limb to say that anyone who wanted to pay them will have already done so. Sure, there’s some good titles – like Forza Horizon 4, DOOM Eternal, Gears 5 and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. But they’re all years-old by now. Games With Gold has been a little disappointing lately, but at least you were getting something a bit different every month, with a decent chance you’ve not already played them.

You can see the full list of Xbox Game Pass Core games on Xbox Wire.

Essentially, then, just like Xbox Live Gold, you’re not particularly going to want to pay for Game Pass Core. But you’ll need it if you want to play online.

Four “tiers” of Xbox Game Pass

With the announcement of Game Pass Core, Microsoft has released the below graphic, revealing the four “tiers” of Xbox Game Pass: Core, Console, PC and Ultimate.

Xbox Game Pass tiers

The trouble is, such tiered systems typically include the benefits of the plan beneath them. And so looking at the graphic above, you’d assume you get the benefit of online multiplayer with Xbox Game Pass Console too. You don’t. If you want access to the full Game Pass catalogue and online play, your only option is to get Game Pass Ultimate.

It means things are exactly the same as they are now, where Game Pass and Live Gold exist as two separate entities. But where you currently have the chance to get separate, cheap memberships of both, we have a feeling you won’t be able to stack Game Pass Core and Console in the same way. It reduces consumer choice to only Game Pass Ultimate. Because, let’s face it, anyone who plays Xbox regularly wants to be able to play online and also access the Game Pass Library.

The sensible thing would have been to scrap Xbox Live Gold altogether, providing online play as a built-in Game Pass benefit. Or, you know, removing the cost barrier of playing online, because it’s a ridiculous and outdated practice.

Xbox Game Pass Core: A marketing nightmare waiting to happen

Perhaps the biggest problem with Xbox Game Pass Core is its name, which is likely to prove to be a nightmare for Microsoft’s marketing team. How many times have you heard the phrase “included with Game Pass” or “day one on Game Pass”? That’s no longer true, is it? Because Xbox Game Pass Core falls under the Game Pass banner, but doesn’t include any of the benefits we’ve come to know Game Pass for.

It makes almost every trailer of the recent Xbox Games Showcase null and void, because instead of “coming to Game Pass”, those games are now coming to “Game Pass Console and Ultimate”. We’re not sure exactly how Microsoft is going to handle its marketing going forward, but it’s bound to prove to be confusing for many consumers.

What happens to existing Xbox Live Gold subscriptions?

If you already have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, it will automatically become a Game Pass Core membership on 14th September. Your pricing won’t change, and you’ll be given instant access to that library of 25 games.

Any Games With Gold titles on your account will remain accessible as long as you have a valid Game Pass Core (or Ultimate) membership. Xbox 360 games are yours to keep forever, regardless of your subscription status.

You can read more about the changes to Xbox Live Gold on Microsoft’s blog.

Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.