The Quick Guide to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Learn all about Microsoft's game subscription service

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is a lot like Netflix for video games: Pay a monthly fee to subscribe to the service and receive access to hundreds of games for your Xbox One console as well as a PC.

What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

Game Pass Ultimate is an unlimited gaming subscription service for Xbox One consoles and PCs. It will also work with the new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles.

There are no limitations on how many games you can play each month and there are no restrictions. The games are the full titles, just like if you'd paid the full price for them. 

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also bundles in Xbox Live Gold so you can play these games online too and enjoy the multiplayer features available through them. Xbox Live Gold membership also gives Xbox One owners four free games per month which are usually a mixture of two Xbox One titles and two Xbox 360 or Xbox games. Gold subscribers also receive exclusive discounts every week on games from the Microsoft Store as well as other occasional discounts.

Wondering how to budget for all a new console plus Game Pass Ultimate? You might want to look into Xbox All Access, which lets you pay monthly for a new Xbox Series X or S console and includes a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

How Does Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Work?

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is very simple. You pay a monthly subscription fee and you immediately gain access to a large library of Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, and even original Xbox games that you can then play for free either on your Xbox One or PC. 

All you need to do is sign up for the service, look through the catalog either on your system or through the Xbox Game Pass app and choose to install as many games as you like. There's no limit and you can play the games for as long as they're available through the service. 

One thing that makes Xbox Game Pass Ultimate very different from something like Netflix is that you don't stream the games. Instead, you download them before playing them. If you have a poor internet connection speed, this may be an issue, especially if you have limited bandwidth from your ISP. You may also need to consider hard drive space on your Xbox One or PC and need to delete games before you can download new ones.

Otherwise, there are no restrictions implemented by Microsoft when it comes to how much you can download. 

Games can leave the service. Once they do, you can't play them anymore unless you purchase them separately. Similarly, if your subscription expires, you no longer have access to the games you've downloaded, although you will retain any progress you've made so you can return to them if you choose to resubscribe. 

All games on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate can be purchased at a 10% discount if you prefer to own a game you particularly love rather than rely on the subscription model. 

How Much Does Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Cost?

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs $14.99 per month directly from Microsoft. Special offers are often available through the Microsoft Store and you're also able to buy redemption keys from various third-party sellers to bring costs down further. 

What's the Difference Between Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Game Pass?

When considering Xbox Game Pass vs Game Pass Ultimate, there are some key differences depending on how you game. 

Xbox Game Pass only provides games for free on an Xbox One. It doesn't offer the same service for the PC so if you're solely interested in playing games on your Xbox One, this may be a better option. 

However, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes Xbox Live Gold which as mentioned allows you to play games online in multiplayer with friends and other players. Subscribe to just Xbox Game Pass and you won't have access to these services. For online gamers, it's better to upgrade to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. 

What Games Are Available on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate? 

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers over two hundred games on both PC and Xbox One. These include a large selection of brand new games as well as popular classics. 

Games developed by Microsoft (known as first-party games) launch on the service the day they're released so you get immediate access to titles like Forza Horizon 4, Sea of Thieves, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, Crusader Kings 3, and Age of Empires are also available for PC players that use Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. 

Besides major titles, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes many lesser-known indie titles so there's something for every gaming taste here. 

What Are the Drawbacks to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

There are a lot of positives about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate but it's worth considering two key points.

You never actually own the games. Because Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is a subscription service, you never technically own the games you play. Instead, it's like a rental service meaning if Microsoft pulls the game from the lineup, you can't play it anymore unless you purchase it. This won't be an issue for everyone but it's worth considering if you prefer to own your games. 

You need to download each game. Some games are tens if not hundreds of gigabytes in size and they can take a long time to download if your internet connection isn't very fast. This won't be convenient for everyone as you'll need to plan ahead regarding what you want to play. 

Does Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Have Any Competition? 

There are other game subscription services out there. For Xbox One and PC owners, there's EA Play which allows access to many EA released titles for a monthly fee. However, this service will be shortly combined with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership so you can pay the same $15 monthly fee for everything that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers, plus EA Play. 

On other devices, there's also Sony's PS Now which is an on-demand streaming games service rather than one that requires you to download games first. There's also Google Stadia and GeForce Now which offer streaming game services. Neither are currently available for the Xbox One though are available for the PC.