What is Xbox Game Pass?

What is Xbox Game Pass? Whether you’re trying to expand your horizons within the Xbox ecosystem or simply trying to get a better handle on the service following its comparisons to the new PlayStation Plus Premium, it’s a question worth answering. 

At its most basic level, Xbox Game Pass is a premium subscription service from Microsoft that will give you access to a catalog of video games; this includes first-party exclusives from Xbox Games Studios on the day that they release, a rotating selection of titles from third-party publishers, and a suite of backwards compatible games that cover four generations of Xbox console. As for how many games are on Xbox Game Pass, the Xbox Game Pass yearly cost, and for the other benefits of the service, we’ll get into all of that below. 

What is Xbox Game Pass? 

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox Game Pass was launched in 2017. The service provides players access to hundreds of first- and third-party games for one monthly subscription price. The catalog updates frequently, featuring select games from across the Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X generations. There’s no limit to the amount of games that you can download through the service, with the only restriction being how much hard drive space you have available to you.

With an active subscription you’ll be able to access, download, and play as many games as you want to that are in the Game Pass library – accessed via the Xbox Store or from a tab in ‘My Games & Apps’. As an added benefit, you can also purchase any of the games in the catalog at a 20% discount, and any add-on content it may have for a 10% discount – perfect, should you want to continue playing a game after it is removed from Game Pass, with in-game progress and achievements saved in the interim. 

While downloaded games from Game Pass can be played when your Xbox Series X or Xbox One is offline, you do have to reconnect to Xbox Live every 30 days so that the network can verify that you still have an active subscription. While Xbox Live Gold isn’t required to access Game Pass, you will need an active account to play any online multiplayer games available through the subscription service. 

How many games are in Xbox Game Pass?


(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

There are 454 games in the library. Xbox Game Pass subscribers can access 362 of them, with the other 92 available via the EA Play vault – access to which is made available through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which we’ll cover shortly. The library will typically change every month, with third-party publishers bringing its titles in and out of the service, with the only certainty being that Xbox exclusives will be available as part of your subscription on the day of their release. 

You may be wondering how long games stay in Xbox Game Pass. Well, typically, first-party games – the ones developed by those under the Xbox Games Studios umbrella and published by Microsoft – do not rotate out of the service, with some notable exceptions. For example, there are no Forza Motorsport games available via Game Pass due to expiring licenses with car manufacturers. However exclusives released over the last 20 years, ranging from Blinx: The Time Sweeper to Gears of War to Quantum Break to Forza Horizon 5, are all in there. 

You’ll also find a range of Bethesda titles in Game Pass following the company’s acquisition in 2021. There are over 20 Bethesda games in Game Pass, ranging from classics like DOOM and Quake to more recent releases such as Dishonored 2 and Prey. Following Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision in 2022, you should expect to see Activision and Blizzard games – everything from Call of Duty through to Diablo, and so much more – join the service in the future. 

How many subscribers does Xbox Game Pass have?

Gears 5

(Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

Xbox Game Pass currently has over 25 million subscribers. Given the service was introduced in 2017, this is quite the turnaround for Microsoft. Growth is expected in the future too, bolstered by the purchase of Activision and Bethesda – ensuring that future Call of Duty games, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6, and countless others are all available as part of your Xbox Game Pass subscription from day one. 

What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate? 

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Microsoft Xbox)

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is access to the Game Pass library and an Xbox Live Gold subscription tied together in one neat package. The premium tier service was introduced in 2019 and includes additional benefits, such as access to PC Game Pass (an alternative library of games for those playing on Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices), EA Play (which includes a host of legacy EA games, as well as early access and discounts on new releases), and support for Xbox Cloud Gaming (which lets you stream games directly from the cloud). 

How much does Xbox Game Pass cost? 

Forza Horizon 5

(Image credit: Playground Games)

We’ve got a more comprehensive breakdown of the monthly and yearly costs of the various tiers, so if you’re interested you should check out our guide to the best Xbox Game Pass Ultimate prices and deals. For those of you in a bit of a rush, the broad answer is that Xbox Game Pass costs around $9.99/£7.99 a month and Game Pass Ultimate is $14.99/£10.99 a month. Check out that link above for a more complete picture though. 

What’s a cool feature of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Okay, so here’s a cool benefit of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate that you might not know about. Now, this is all possible because of Xbox Cloud Gaming, so you’ll need a solid internet connection to do it, but you can actually use this feature to access Game Pass games on Android and iOS devices. 

Not cool enough for you? How about this. Let’s say your friends are playing Sea of Thieves and they send you a multiplayer invite. You don’t have the game installed and they’ll be offline by the time the 25GB downloads. Well that’s okay, with Xbox Cloud Gaming you can launch straight into Sea of Thieves from the Game Pass library, play a little session with your buddies, and then install the game and play it locally later if you want to. 

How does Xbox Game Pass Ultimate compare to PS Plus Premium? 

PS Now

(Image credit: PlayStation)

In our estimation, PS Plus Premium misses the point of Game Pass – not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Microsoft is leveraging its subscription service to build up the Xbox ecosystem, using the fact that brand new upcoming Xbox Series X games are available though it day one as a massive selling point. Sony on the other hand seems content with expanding its current offering, making the best version of PlayStation Plus that it can. For a more thorough breakdown, read our comprehensive PlayStation Plus Premium vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate breakdown.

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