Voted Best Gaming Service at the TechRadar Choice Awards 2021
Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is essentially a bundle of multiple services in one monthly payment. With it, subscribers get Xbox Game Pass for console, the PC version, Xbox Live Gold, EA Play and access to Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) on Android devices, all rolled into one.
That means you can pick from a buffet of games on console or PC, and be able to play them all online, and you may never need to buy a game ever again on Xbox One or one of the new Xbox Series S / Xbox Series X consoles. For the first time, it means that you don't even need to own and Xbox or PC to play your favorite games, as you can stream them from the cloud on your phone.
The service is such a core pillar of Xbox’s strategy that you can buy one of the new consoles with it as part of the Xbox All Access service.
With a wealth of third-party games rotated into the service on an almost weekly basis, along with some recent big additions like Outriders and MLB: The Show 21 arriving on day one, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate can also enjoy the fact that every first-party game arrives on launch day (including the upcoming Halo Infinite), and your monthly Xbox Live Gold fee included. It’s a great deal, then, even if you’re just a console player.
Factor in the PC version of Game Pass for even more titles to play, as well as the addition of EA Play on both platforms and Xbox Cloud Gaming, and you’ll never run out of games to try and never feel restricted to one device anymore.
Streaming Xbox games to your Android phone via Xbox Cloud Gaming (previously known as Project xCloud) means that the Xbox ecosystem is now accessible to those who wouldn't even consider buying a console. While iOS compatibility was a big question mark at first, Xbox Cloud Gaming will soon be available on Apple devices and internet browsers, too.
Here’s everything you need to know about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, including how much it costs, and what it offers.
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What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?
While Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass on PC are two different services, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate bundles both together and then a slew of extra goodies on top.
While Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass on PC will set you back $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$10.95 each, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers both for $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 per month, and also includes Xbox Live Gold (now only available annually in many territories, which costs $60.00 / £50.00 / AU$80.00). You also get EA Play, which costs $4.99 / £4.99 per month, and Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) at no extra cost.
Subscribers can download huge titles on the Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC like Doom Eternal, Forza Horizon 4, and Gears 5. You can then play whenever you’d like, and try out backward compatible titles from both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 console generations, thanks to Xbox’s extensive backward compatibility program.
Since you get Xbox Live Gold included, too, you’ll be able to hop straight into a match of Rainbow Six: Siege or any other multiplayer title in the service like Sea of Thieves.
PC players won’t need to pay to play online, but they can still pick from a wealth of games to download. Recent releases like Crusader Kings 3, as well as the likes of first-party hits like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, can be found on the Xbox app for Windows 10.
Add in the EA Play catalog, and you’ve got the likes of Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Skate, too. Previously a $4.99 / £4.99 added cost, it’s now free of charge for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.
Oh, and did we mention that 20 Bethesda games are now on Xbox Game Pass as well? As part of Microsoft's acquisition of the company, you can now access games like The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, Prey, Fallout 76 and Wolfenstein: Young Blood to name but a few.
Speaking of extras, players can complete ‘Quests’ by trying new games and ticking off Achievements, which can be redeemed towards giveaways and gift cards – although it’ll take time to do so. Still, it’s a nice incentive to try new games.
While games aren’t permanently fixed in the service, you’ll get plenty of notice before titles leave. If you want to add them to your collection permanently, you’ll get a 20% discount, and you’ll also save 10% on any DLC for games in the Game Pass library too.
As we've mentioned above, players can even play many of the included titles on their phones – at least if you’ve got an Android device. Over 50 games now support touch-controls, too, so you don't even need to connect an Xbox Wireless Controller or fork out for a dedicated gamepad for mobile gaming like the Razer Kishi.
You’ll need a solid connection (and 5G is likely to boost your chances of a lag-free experience), but it’s something that opens up the Xbox ecosystem to millions more potential players, and is a nice bonus to those who already play on Xbox or PC.
Competitor Sony has dropped the price of PlayStation Now, it's own subscription service, to $9.99 / £8.99 per month (with no Australian release yet), but you’ll also need to pay $9.99 / £6.99 a month for PS Plus if you want to play online. That's already more than Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and you're getting a lot less for your money.
Design and interface
Because Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is made up of several elements, it doesn’t necessarily have a unified interface. Instead, there’s the Xbox app on PC, as well as a section on the Xbox dashboard (which is now unified between Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X consoles).
For console users, it’s hard to miss – Microsoft has put Game Pass almost front and center on the home screen. With just a couple of button presses, users can start browsing the catalog.
Each game has a trailer, screenshots, and the file size listed, so you can pack as much onto your hard drive as possible. You can also see at a glance if it has any enhancements for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
You can also filter by genre, see what friends are playing, ask the app to "surprise me", or flick through recommendations. It really is similar to Netflix, only with downloads instead of streaming, and shows games that are recently added or leaving soon, too.
The 'My Games and Apps' menu will show which titles are from Game Pass or EA Play, too, so you can easily spot them amongst games you’ve purchased.
For PC users, you’ll find Game Pass within the existing Xbox app, meaning you won’t have to worry about downloading any extra launchers.
Games don’t have to be launched from the app either, meaning you can manage installations from the Control Panel, just as if you’d installed the game from the Microsoft Store (which, incidentally, is where games are updated from).
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate content library
Taking the perks, the Quests, and the Xbox Live membership out of the equation, it’s time to answer the question: what is there to play?
While PlayStation Now offers more than 800 games, some of which are playable on PC, much of it relies on a streaming connection. It's also restricted to only PS4, PS3 and PS2 titles, which the latter two can only be streamed.
Xbox Game Pass offers around 200 titles on console, all of which are able to be downloaded and played locally, while PC players have around 150 to enjoy. That number continues to grow as over 20 Bethesda games are now on the service, and EA Play has also inject over 50 more titles into the mix.
Both Xbox Game Pass on console and PC get a healthy mix of genres and games, so expect the likes of indie darlings like Slay The Spire and Dead Cells to sit alongside Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Forza Motorsport 7, and Sea of Thieves on both platforms. Some games will only be available on console or PC, however.
Then there are big-budget third-party titles, with the likes of the aforementioned Doom Eternal and Rainbow Six: Siege on console, while PC players can enjoy new releases like Wasteland 3 and popular titles like ARK: Survival Evolved. Destiny 2 is also available for console players, with the Beyond Light expansion launching into Game Pass.
Not only is Microsoft looking to snap up plenty of upcoming content, but Game Pass offers plenty of backward-compatible titles to get your teeth into as well, doubly so with EA Play adding everything from Plants vs Zombies to Peggle to sports titles and Need For Speed. Some backwards compatible titles have also been enhanced thanks to FPS Boost, which has the potential to quadruple a game's frame rate.
- A simple, all-in-one, subscription service that offers incredible value for money
- EA Play bolsters an already large library of titles
- Plenty of added perks, including free digital content and discounts
- Xbox Live Gold included, allowing online play, as well as cloud gaming on mobile
- PlayStation Now offers a larger library, albeit the majority is through streaming
- Cloud Gaming only on Android for now
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is an obvious purchase for anyone planning to play games on both Xbox and PC. If you own an Xbox or have even the slightest interest in Microsoft's first-party games, it's almost impossible not to recommend Xbox Game Pass.
It's cheaper than paying for each platform’s library separately and includes online play for console, which would be worth the monthly fee alone. But when you add in discounts, a reward system, EA Play, cloud gaming, free digital goodies for gamers and non-gamers alike, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is changing the game.
Whether it’ll entice people to buy an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S is another question entirely, but it’s also almost beside the point: make no mistake, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is Microsoft’s real focus for next-gen, and as it stands, is easily the best deal in gaming.
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