“Most” of Microsoft’s 238,000 Employees To Lose Benefit of Free Access To Game Pass Ultimate, Says Report (UPDATE – they reversed decision)

By Todd Russell Nov7,2023

UPDATE 11/7/2023 @ 5:28am PST: Microsoft has reversed their decision described below. The fact they were even contemplating it doesn’t change the rest of the information below. See this article for the reversal (thanks Antihero): Microsoft employees will keep free access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate after complaints

In 2023, Microsoft raised the price of its Ultimate Game Pass subscription, then there was Xbox CEO Phil Spencer expressing concern about the future of the service if it didn’t get more subscribers (see: Microsoft CEO of Gaming Hints Closing Game Pass if Subscriber Numbers Don’t Meet Expectations by 2027), and now a report indicating that “most” Microsoft employees will lose a benefit of having Game Pass Ultimate provided for free via Dexerto via The Verge:

Sources told The Verge that “most” of Microsoft’s 238,000 employees would have Game Pass removed from their benefits, news that allegedly has not gone down well at the company. Xbox employees will seemingly continue to have free access to the pass, while a discounted 12-month subscription will be available for purchase at the company’s internal store for all other employees.

Neither source mention how much of a discount it will be and the Verge reports indicates even Spencer didn’t know about the change. Large corporations have so many cogs and wheels, this is not altogether surprising, if true. The other side to this apparent cost-cutting measure and clearly is a signal Microsoft is doubling down on increasing paid memberships, something we talked about in more depth here: Is Microsoft Intentionally Reducing Ways To Gain Points, While Increasing The Rewards Costs of Items Like Game Pass?

If you can get some (hopefully large) percentage of 238,000 employees paying that weren’t paying and make it harder for those using free Microsoft Points to earn a subscription, this is clear evidence that they’re trying to push even more subscribers to the finish line. It’s odd, though, that Spencer doesn’t seem to know about the employee benefit removal plan. It’s possible that idea is struck down internally, if for no other reason than bad press. Having been a contract worker for Microsoft in the past and seeing first hand the deep discounts at the campus Microsoft store, the discount for Game Pass will likely be significant. That store is awesome.

At the end of the day, this is just adding to the layers of evidence that Microsoft isn’t happy with how many Game Pass subscribers they have in return for what they’re paying for the service. We drew parallels to the movie/TV streaming sites in this piece: Game Subscription Price Increases Are Inevitable – See What’s Happening with Cable and Streaming TV

This author continues with the concern that this push to digital is definitely not futureproof. Detractors could argue that nothing gaming-oriented is fullproof, but having physical access to games continues to be more secure for game owners than digital. And it applies to movies and TV shows in physical format as well. We may complain about the space required to keep physical media, but this is a small concession versus being priced out of a service or the service not carrying the game at all any more or selling it digitally through a store (which happens more often than not).

In fairness, it’s not only Microsoft that are raising prices of their game subscription service, Sony raised their Playstation prices as well ($40/year Price Increase for Playstation Plus Premium Subscription to $159/year)

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