Xbox Game Pass is still a gamer's dream – so why aren't more people subscribing?

Xbox Game Pass
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox Game Pass has been something of a barnstormer for Microsoft on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One consoles, as well as PC. It comes with over a hundred games available to download and play at any given time, including some of the best Xbox Series X games around. And with multiple new titles rotating in each month, it's no wonder the subscription service has a reputation for being one of the best deals in gaming.

With this in mind, it's a little surprising to see subscriber growth slow down quite dramatically. As reported by Wccftech, the number of Game Pass subscribers continued to grow in the 2021 financial year, but not as much as Microsoft's estimate of 48%. Actual growth fell short of that, to just 37%.

That's quite a dramatic decrease from last year's staggering growth of 86%, and while Microsoft doesn't frequently advertise its total number of subscribers, industry analyst Daniel Ahmad estimates it to be around 20 million as of June 2021.

Microsoft Game Studios launches its first party titles onto Xbox Game Pass on day one of release, which supports that massive 86% growth during the prior financial year. 2019-2020 saw several high profile Microsoft-exclusive titles hit Game Pass, including Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Minecraft Dungeons, Gears Tactics and a revamped Halo: The Master Chief Collection hitting Xbox Game Pass for PC.

While Xbox Game Pass releases have remained strong with plenty of big third party hits, the lack of Microsoft Game Studios games in 2020 and 2021, no doubt a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which was in full swing at the time, has likely impacted its growth.

Analysis: Will Xbox Game Pass bounce back?

When you compare the latest financial year's numbers to the previous year's, the growth is still there, but it appears that the Xbox Game Pass honeymoon period might well be over. With that said, looking at Microsoft Game Studios' release lineup for the end of 2021 and beyond, it's very possible subscriber growth could be back on the rise soon.

Three huge Microsoft Game Studios titles have yet to release this year; Age of Empires 4, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite, in that order. This trio of high profile titles hit Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on day one, 

Meanwhile, 2022 and beyond is also looking a bit brighter for Microsoft, with several big games on the horizon including Perfect Dark, Everwild, Fable and Hellblade 2 to name but a few.

We don't expect a meteoric number like that 86% boost for Game Pass's performance over the next year, but with so many huge titles on the way (not to mention continued support from big third party studios like Bandai Namco, Sega and Square Enix), we'd be shocked to see growth dip even further than it currently has.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.