Microsoft may be exploring a cheaper Game Pass subscription with ads

The ad-supported option would cost €3 per month (£2.61) and allow you to download and play first-party Xbox games six months after launch, according to a screenshot of a Spanish-language survey shared on video game forum ResetEra.

Those signed up to the cheaper plan would purportedly have to sit through ads before a game starts. Based on the screenshot, customers on this tier would also be able to access online multiplayer.

Subscription services like Game Pass and Sony’s PlayStation Plus are like the gaming industry’s version of Netflix, offering customers unlimited access to a library of games for a monthly fee. Game Pass currently comes in three tiers split across console, PC, and a combination of the two, with prices starting from £8 per month.

Netflix finally caved and introduced a cheaper, ad-streaming plan earlier this year. The launch was largely viewed as the streamer’s response to a drop in subscribers. Notably, Netflix’s ad plan is powered by Microsoft’s ad sales platform, known as Xandr.

With the cost-of-living crisis forcing people to scrutinise unnecessary expenses, easily cancellable subscription services can often be the first luxury on the chopping block. Viewed through this lens, this could be Microsoft’s bid to proactively retain subscribers that may be considering leaving to save money.

The same survey also shows a family plan that offers unrestricted access to Game Pass for five members on consoles and PC for €22 a month (£19.14). This looks like the same option that was officially launched in Ireland and Columbia earlier this year, meaning Microsoft could be planning to bring it to more regions soon.

In the case of Microsoft, first-party games are those published by Xbox Game Studios and its subsidiaries, which currently include popular titles like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. Microsoft-owned game studio Bethesda is also slated to release its highly anticipated space exploration game Starfield on Game Pass in the first half of next year.

Microsoft has taken a more aggressive approach to game subscriptions compared to its rivals by bringing its first-party games to Game Pass at launch. Sony’s PS Plus, on the other hand, offers a library of older titles and classics, along with limited trials for newer games.

In addition, Microsoft seems determined to expand Game Pass to a wider range of users by subsidising existing hardware and releasing more streaming devices. It recently cut the price of the Xbox Series S console to £200 in time for Christmas, and is working on a cheaper streaming box that plugs into a TV or monitor’s HDMI port to let players stream Game Pass games over the internet (known as cloud gaming).

Selling ad space to brands could allow it to fund those efforts. A number of reports and rumours have suggested that Microsoft has patented tech that would allow it to show personalised ads in free-to-play games and on other cloud-gaming services.

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