Xbox Game Pass for families is now official, confirming our report on the planned feature earlier in 2022. Plus, it's a lot cheaper than you might have thought.
We previously reported that Microsoft was moving ahead with plans to add a new tier to Xbox Game Pass for families, which similar to Office 365, would give you four additional users on a single Xbox Game Pass subscription charge. Today, Microsoft confirmed these plans, with a limited test for Xbox Insiders in Ireland and Colombia.
I suspect the purpose of these tests is to determine user behavior and the economic viability of the project. Over this time we expect Microsoft to be examining how the features may change habits around subscribing to the service or sharing Xbox Game Pass with friends and family. Netflix expanded rapidly with its fairly liberal policies on account sharing, even if it has begun pulling back on some of those freedoms amid mounting competition.
Microsoft is still in a growth phase with Xbox Game Pass, as it increasingly explores ways to attach new users to the service. Xbox Game Pass' family subscription has long been requested by Xbox users, and it was recently discovered that it may carry the brand "Xbox Game Pass Friends & Family."
Indeed, while you can share Xbox Game Pass with another account thanks to "game sharing," families with several kids need to stack multiple subscriptions right now. This new plan will allow families or groups of friends to guarantee access to multiplayer games and other titles that hit the service, while also potentially ramping up how much Microsoft and its developer partners can earn by way of DLC and in-game purchases.
Just how much will Xbox Game Pass' Friends & Family plan cost, anyway? Well, it's potentially cheaper than you think.
So how much does it cost?
The cost of an Xbox Game Pass Family Plan is 21.99 Euros per month during the ongoing tests throughout Ireland. Our reporting earlier this year also stated that the tentative price for the U.S. is around $24.99, which puts it roughly in line with the EU market test. This gives you a total of five users on a single plan, within the same country.
Right now, Xbox Game Pass Family Plan is powered by Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $14.99 for a single license. If you split the cost between all five licenses, you're essentially getting Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $5 per month instead of $15 per month. This essentially makes it the cheapest way to get a deal on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, if indeed this ends up being the final price.
Since this is only a test phase right now, there's a chance the final price could change. The reason Microsoft is piloting this in two markets is to see how the plan affects user behavior. The goal here is most likely to grow the number of active users in the subscription, while further promoting the platform by means of virality. The more people that are attached to Xbox Game Pass via any means necessary, the larger the footprint of the subscription service is in general.
You can think of it in similar terms to how Netflix has been so reluctant to prevent people from sharing their passwords between households. Password sharing for the subscription service has undoubtedly helped to inflate and self-perpetuate its market share and userbase. But given that Netflix is now looking to prevent some users from sharing passwords outside of one household, it certainly seems like there's an upper limit on how much this continues to be worthwhile.
Microsoft may determine that the current price target is too low for Xbox Game Pass to be economically viable, given the costs of content licensing and powering features like Xbox Cloud Gaming. We'll have to wait and see how it all plays out for the final price.
What is included in the plan?
The Xbox Game Pass "family plan" gives you four additional licenses to attach to your main account license, giving you a total of five users with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It works very similarly to Office 365, which allows you to share Office plans with up to four family members within the same country in addition to your personal subscription, attached to your Microsoft Account.
With Xbox Game Pass Friends & Family Plan powered by Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get the following:
- Xbox Game Pass Family Plan gives your main account, and four additional accounts full access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Although, with Xbox game sharing, technically you can also attach a sixth user by using the Xbox game sharing loophole.
- If you're already an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, your remaining subscription will convert to Xbox Game Pass' new family plan. This isn't a 1:1 conversion, accounting for the differences in value between the subscriptions. However, any attached users' existing remaining subscription time will not convert. All users need a Microsoft Account.
- Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers hundreds of downloadable games to play on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles, in addition to PC. See our full Xbox Game Pass games list for more info.
- You also get access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, allowing you to stream and play a large library of Xbox games on any Android device, any iOS device via the web, and any PC. Many of these games also include touch controls, allowing you to play from anywhere. See our best Xbox Cloud Gaming games round-up for more info.
- You also get a ton of Xbox Game Pass perks, which include trials for things like Discord, streaming service like Paramount+, and even skins for games.
- You also get access to exclusive discounts to buy games to own if you or the games plan to exit the Xbox Game Pass service.
Does everybody need to live at the same address?
Microsoft has stated that Family Plan members do not need to be in the same household; only in the same country. However, it's unclear if that's just a restriction for this test, or if it will carry over to the public version too.
There's a chance there could be restrictions by country down the line, but we won't know for sure until Microsoft clarifies. It seems odd to restrict access by country, given the cloud-based nature of the Xbox Game Pass offerings.
Adding family members to your Microsoft Account
It's pretty easy to add family members to your Microsoft Account, which you can do ahead of the general rollout of this plan.
Unless you're part of the Xbox Game Pass Ireland and Columbia Insider test, you can use the family section on Microsoft's website to manage a variety of family safety features for youngsters, including screen time permissions, age restrictions on content, and even set up blockers for unsavory websites on Microsoft Edge.
- Head to your Microsoft Account page on the web and log in.
- Scroll down to the bottom to find your family section, or head to this link to manage it directly.
- From here, you can add family members, as well as set up screen time and permissions for youngsters who are attached to your account.
Does it work with Xbox console sharing?
A little-known loophole in the Xbox licensing model allows you to share your games and licenses with a secondary user already, which has made people wonder if this dual-entitlement would work for secondary users attached to your account.
Perhaps somewhat obviously, Microsoft has confirmed that secondary users attached to your Xbox Game Pass Family Plan will not be entitled to share access to their Xbox Game Pass access beyond their own account. This is to prevent a daisy chain effect where users could simply share and share again access to Xbox Game Pass, undermining the economic viability of the service.
However, you will still be able to share your primary account's Xbox Game Pass access using the dual-entitlement system, where you sign in to a second Xbox using your cloud login, while keeping another Xbox as your permanent "home" login. In effect, this essentially gives you an additional license to share with a friend as a result, making the possible access total hit 6 users.
Some have also asked me if the Xbox Game Pass Family Plan will allow game library sharing for non-Game Pass titles to the other family members. There are no plans for this to be the case, this is only for Xbox Game Pass titles, although game sharing will work as normal between two users.
Xbox Game Pass' family plan offers unbeatable value
Xbox Game Pass was already hailed as the best deal in gaming, but this new family plan really extends that promise further. If it does ship at $25, per the test, for consumers in increasingly tough financial conditions, Xbox Game Pass will be a true godsend for gaming families everywhere. There's every chance Microsoft may decide to bump up the price down the line, or even before launch, but right now I think it's okay to remain hopeful that it will initially hit $25.
For groups of friends at different levels of income, or larger families all of whom want to play games, this service offers access to premium titles at a scale never before seen in history. I have sad memories of being excluded from Nintendo games as a kid due to the premium price tags, while many of my friends discussed the same titles at school. Xbox Game Pass gives premium games another way to compete in a landscape that is increasingly skewing towards free-to-play, which is particularly timely given the economic hardships hitting many countries around the world right now.
There are still a lot of unknown variables when it comes to gaming subscription services at scale, which is probably why Microsoft is limiting this service to two countries on a trial basis initially. Still, up until now the data has been positive for both gamers who need to save money and developers who get some upfront cash flow from the Xbox Game Pass licensing deal, buoyed by viral marketing that comes from word-of-mouth discussions thanks to improved access. Combing that with Xbox Cloud Gaming across any device, and the vast library of Windows games in PC Game Pass, and Microsoft increasingly has a winning recipe that should, hopefully, benefit everybody involved.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!