Xbox Game Pass Ultimate needs a family plan, because it's 2020

Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass (Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central Xbox Game Pass is now 10-million subscribers strong, and growing. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Xbox Game Pass is undoubtedly a great service, providing access to hundreds of games on a monthly fee. It's often called the "Netflix of gaming," owing to the way Microsoft is pumping it full of great third, and first-party content, with recent titles like Gears Tactics and Minecraft Dungeons hitting the service.

HOWEVER. There's one big glaring flaw in this whole gig, and one particular flaw with the direct comparisons to Netflix. Netflix can be enjoyed by a large family on a single plan, Xbox Game Pass ... can't.

Several kids requires several subscriptions

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

I'm not suggesting that Microsoft should just let several people have access to Xbox Game Pass without having to pay extra, but Netflix has a plan that lets you have more concurrent streams at once on a single payment. Beyond the cost, it's just a case of convenience. To achieve similar with Xbox Game Pass (and Xbox Live Gold for that matter) you have to either be signed into your child's console, or have a separate subscription.

If you have a few kids who are Xbox gamers, to work through that effectively, you'd have to buy each a separate subscription, or hop around signing into their consoles when one wanted to use the service. It's either inconvenient or inconveniently pricey.

An easy fix, surely

Source: Microsoft Microsoft's emphasis on family features should extend to Xbox Game Pass too. (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft could pretty easily fix this by following the Netflix model, allowing parents to sign in to a separate Xbox Game Pass app on each family member's console, independent of their full-blown Xbox Live console login details. Not only would this be far more convenient to move a single subscription around different consoles, but it also opens up the opportunity to have a "Family Pass" access, similar to what Microsoft does with Microsoft 365's family plan (opens in new tab).

With Microsoft 365 for Families, six people get access to Office and OneDrive, manageable via the Family Center on your Microsoft Account.

Given that Microsoft places a big emphasis on familial gaming, with its recent Parent's App for Xbox and some of the more robust parental controls between the big three, it just seems odd that they haven't extended that courtesy to Xbox Game Pass, or even Xbox Live Gold, which again, requires multiple subscriptions in a single household. The whole system feels archaic at best, and price-gouging at worst.

Let's get an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Family Plan!

There's no real reason Microsoft wouldn't benefit from at least allowing Xbox gaming parents to manage their families into a single subscription, without having to jump through the various hoops of running multiple rolling subscriptions simultaneously. It would encourage more people into the service too, undoubtedly, since the value and convenience would be far better than what Microsoft expects families to do as of writing.

What do you think? Are you rolling multiple Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscriptions for your family? Let us know in the comments.

Xbox Game Pass


Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for 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!

  • This is a good idea. Should cover PC too. It makes sense to work with the Family options within Windows/Microsoft account. To compare, with Steam you can add family members to share your games although you can't play them simultaneously. Microsoft can do better.
  • With PC it is pretty easy already. Under your child's account in Windows 10, you just sign in to MS Store with your parent's account, and your kid can download any app or game you have purchased, including Game Pass games.
  • Oh, so it works already? Interesting. I've yet to try this. But not only your children should be the ones who you can share your Pass/library with.
  • This does work for the most part, but not for Minecraft not sure if this is a sustainable workaround.
  • You do currently have the ability to set one Xbox as your Home console and Game Pass and Gold will work on that without you needing to be signed in, for every profile on that system, and you can then sign in elsewhere, and when you do that, that console gets access to all your stuff even on other profiles, allowing you to have up to two Xboxes with access to your subscriptions, but there are definitely some frictions with that set up. You need to be signed in to download a game from game pass, even though everyone will then have access to it, if you get signed out on that second system everything goes away, etc. Those frictions aside, how many households do you think have more than two Xboxes in frequent use? It doesn't make much sense to pay more when you can relatively easily work around the issues if both systems are in the same home. I'd guess relatively few homes even have two Xboxes to begin with. This is really distinct from Netflix or Spotify or Apple Music, or even Microsoft 365, where everyone can be assumed to have access to a separate device. I'm really not sure Xbox needs this. At least not yet. Making it so that home consoles don't need to be signed into the sub holder's account to download stuff from Game Pass would be a nice QoL change though. The PC side of things, or eventually xCloud, would be where this matters more. But those are both still very much in their infancy.
  • Yea this is fine if you have 2 xboxes but our family has 5 and a family plan would be an amazing plan because as the article says you have to buy one for each account or in my case at least 3 out of the 5 using the home Xbox feature. Which is still pricy.
  • Almost the same here, 4 Xbox in 2 states...with all my kids being on Gold.
  • Oh yeah, THIS
  • I do exactly that. We have two Xboxes at the minute. Both can access my games, including game pass stuff. However, my gf and youngest also is eager for an Xbox of their own... Whilst I think it would be great, the abuse level would be immense, groups of friends would no doubt hammer it, so one buys in and 5 play for free. It's tricky, for sure. I imagine they'd have to be a tweak to the revenue given to developers. I know the Netflix login model is heavily abused/used, with several households using single accounts. That said, would be good for my family, assuming the price wasn't too silly. Hell, Office 365, and Ultimate family for £20pm... Not bad.
  • My household has 4 Xboxes in frequent use. I have one and my 3 kids each have their own. And yes, $240/yr for Gold to cover us all is pricey. I’m aware that two could GameShare to reduce costs but they’re here half the time and at their mom’s where they also have Xboxes the rest of the time.
  • This is an asinine assumption at best. Sure, those without families may have no more than two boxes, but clearly this topic isn't for those. Most families will have more than one console.
    We grew up gamers, PC/console, it's not uncommon now. Especially in American households where outdoor play is now a foreign concept. In my own home I have my own portable X1S, wife has an x1x (my home box full of library, three older kids each with their own console.
    The original Family plan was amazing for the then offered time. It really sucked that they did away with it. Now, I can "home box" two consoles and sign in individually with two gold accounts, but that leaves me with only three live capable as my mobile is my always used. So of the four at home, only three could connect, with two separate live accounts - at retail (plus tax) costing over $120/year. Add to that the odd child out would need yet another $60/year account just to get live. This idea of returning a family plan is long overdue, ESPECIALLY now that MSFT is seemingly dumping basic gold plans.
  • I've always thought this, maybe when we get the xcloud version it will be included in the options.
  • 1$ is family friendly :P
  • This has to be the stupidist comment that I have read today. WTF does a trial price have to do with the point of the article?
  • Doesn't Xbox let one Gold account per Xbox allow everyone else on it access, then with one game pass download the game to the console for everyone to play? Would make sense and negate the need for multiple purchase or a whole family plan... 👀
  • It's a little cumbersome, but doable if you only have 2 Xboxes.
  • I have 4 xbox's in my house. I took advantage of the Family Plan when it was there for Live Gold. Since they got rid of that I have my account and my wife account both with separate Xbox Live Ultimate subscriptions so my kids can use live on their devices. I would rather be on a family plan where my 2 boys, my daughter, and I all could be linked to one subscription so they all can play at the same time. However, I feel Microsoft will only stick with the way they can get the most money out of a family which is why they no longer do this. I don't know if I would renew my wives subscription when it is up so hopefully they do come up with some kind of family plan for this even if it is for a little more money.
  • Agreed 100% with you Jez, this is a much needed addition
  • If Office has one, why not this.
  • Ixnay on the "because it's 2020", based on how 2020 is going if GP Ultimate were to change this year it would probably be to brick everyone's consoles because... 2020. But yeah, a family plan would be amazing, I mean sure you could go the whole home console, blah, blah route. but that still involves multiple accounts for any more than two consoles, and handling subscriptions would, like you said, be quite cumbersome. One variable rate depending on number of connections would be fantastic.
  • Yes 100%. I have 2 Gamepass accounts for me and my 3 children.
  • They did want to do this when the Xbox one rolled out 1 subscription for up to 10 accounts. The catch was they were going to make a requirement that you had to be online to play anything, so you didn't just take your Xbox offline forever and still have access to the games I assume. Well, the internet lost their minds over it and they changed it to where we are today. I don't like it but we did this to ourselves. :(
  • Yep, and Sony had something similar, but pulled it at the last minute, once they'd seen the backlash.
  • That is actually the fault of Sony that came up with that information publicly just before E3 to make people believe what Microsoft was doing was bad. BTW, you could go a few days without being connected to the internet and still play the games and then it was just phone low bandwidth and quick type of thing that could be done on about any connection.
  • Note that when you buy Xbox Game Pass and your combine with Xbox Gold, it doesn't say that the ultimate is for a single person anywhere. Everyone can login and play the games on our Xbox, but not on their PC, it is very deceiving and it has to be intentional. There is know way they didn't think about that in the marketing material. It is truly sad when I can play against anyone in the world except for my own family without paying a lot of extra money. Note that Xbox games have been eliminating a lot of split screen local play also (like Halo). So, it not just the subscriptions that are doubled, you have to buy multiple consoles and then juggle between which one is the "Home" or main console. It is the weakest and worst part of the whole Xbox ecosystem and Microsoft continues to ignore it.
  • Yes, on the console it seams to be a "family plan" because anyone can download a play a game from the Game Pass library. So, when you upgrade your Xbox Game Pass on console to PC it doesn't say it is only for one person. So, you pay for Ultimate thinking you are getting this for the whole family, but you are not. And installing a game on Windows requires your kids to have administrator permissions and then you have to try hard to get the Windows Store and Xbox apps to run under your account and not your kids, so much for security of your parent account and parental controls. Then you have updates to games that will cause you a lot issues also. They really need the installers to run as an administrator just for the installs by having a security setting that allows for that without any prompting a kid would not understand. It is currently one big mess. How about trying to own 2 Xbox Ones and updating games on both of them? Sounds like another mess from what I have been told. And yet that is what I would have to do to play a lot of games with someone in my family because most do not do split screen. So, the people in the whole world that is the hardest and most expensive to play with are people in your own family. What a load of cr@p! I like Xbox alot, but Microsoft just doesn't get it.