Xbox Game Pass for free? Microsoft is experimenting with ad views for access to hundreds of Xbox games.

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What you need to know

  • Microsoft Gaming CFO Tim Stuart recently described how in the future, you may be able to view ads to gain access to Xbox Game Pass. 
  • Recent Xbox Series X|S code strings we've seen seem to corroborate this, with the ability to earn 15 minute blocks of Xbox Game Pass access in exchange for watching ads. 
  • Game Pass across PC, Xbox, and Cloud features hundreds of games in exchange for a low monthly fee. 

Microsoft Gaming CFO Tim Stuart recently caused a furore during a Wells Fargo summit where he suggested Xbox is seeking to bring Xbox Game Pass to competing platforms, such as PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer later denied those plans, which seemed to be more of a north star aspirational goal rather than an actual true to life one. 

Microsoft hasn't been shy about wanting to get Xbox Game Pass onto every screen possible, but of course, many platforms aren't particularly forthcoming. Apple, for example, blocks Game Pass on its iOS app store, as it sees it as competition for its own game sales. Still, that hasn't stopped Microsoft from exploring further innovation for its platform. 

Recently, I noticed a report from table enthusiast and generally lovely chap Derek Heape at TweakTown that describes some comments from Tim Stuart that I'd missed. Stuart describes a scenario for Xbox Game Pass expansion, by which Microsoft may offer Xbox Game Pass access in exchange for viewing advertisements. 

"For models like Africa, or India, Southeast Asia, maybe places that aren't console-first, you can say, 'hey, do you want to watch 30 seconds of an ad and then get two hours of game streaming?'," Stuart continued. "Africa is, you know, 50% of the population is 23 years old or younger with a growing disposable income base, all with cell phones and mobile devices, not a lot of high-end disposable income, generally-speaking. So we can go in with our own business models and say — there's millions of gamers we would never have been able to address, and now we can go in with our business models."

Razer Kishi V2

Microsoft isn't done with Xbox Cloud Gaming.  (Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Microsoft has previously surveyed Xbox users on the Xbox Insider Program and via other avenues about the possibility of offering Xbox Game Pass time in exchange for viewing advertisements. And recently, security researcher Title_OS shared some code snippets from the Xbox OS that described systems that would provide access to Xbox Game Pass via on an "Earned Time" basis, complete in 15-minute blocks. 

It certainly seems that Microsoft is exploring expanding accessibility to its Game Pass subscription service, although it's not clear on what form it will take so far. It could be that it's only for cloud gaming, and it could be that it's only for certain markets, as outlined by Tim Stuart. Given the code snippets, it certainly seems as though it's reaching a production stage, however, and may become available some time in 2024. 

Microsoft isn't done with cloud gaming

Razer Kishi V2

(Image credit: Future)

During the Activision-Blizzard acquisition drama, Microsoft downplayed its cloud hand quite heavily throughout. The UK regulator known as the CMA cited "cloud gaming" as a primary cause for concern, should Microsoft seek to preclude competitors from gaining access to titles like Call of Duty via the service. Microsoft responded by putting Call of Duty on NVIDIA GeForce Now and other competing cloud platforms with enforceable agreements, eventually leading to the closure of the deal. 

Over the summer, Xbox Cloud Gaming started seeing some significant queues, leading to further concerns that Microsoft was perhaps winding down emphasis on its cloud gaming aspirations. Xbox lead Phil Spencer noted to us that Microsoft is working to grow its Xbox Cloud Gaming capacity to meet that demand. Innovations like ad views for access may help grow the service even more, bringing in more revenue for developers and leading to more investments in content. Whether it launches broadly in core markets or only in certain territories remains to be seen, but we'll be sure to keep you posted. 

Would YOU watch ads to get Xbox Game Pass for free? Let us know in the comments. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

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!

  • fjtorres5591
    People have been "paying" for gamepass with MS Rewards points for quite some time. A lot of those points acquired by using Edge/Bing and viewing ads. The suggested "experiments" may be referring to that (currently being tweaked) or something similar.

    Given the current decline in ad spending I would doubt any new implementation of ad driven services any time soon, though.
    Reply
  • Jez Corden
    fjtorres5591 said:
    People have been "paying" for gamepass with MS Rewards points for quite some time. A lot of those points acquired by using Edge/Bing and viewing ads. The suggested "experiments" may be referring to that (currently being tweaked) or something similar.

    Given the current decline in ad spending I would doubt any new implementation of ad driven services any time soon, though.
    tim stuart specifically mentioned africa and india as target markets for such a service, also these ad strings are new to the OS.
    Reply