Xbox Live Gold Ends After 18 Years, Replaced By Game Pass Core

After nearly two decades, Xbox Live Gold will die on September 14. In its place is Xbox Game Pass Core, a cheaper version of the Game Pass service that’ll allow gamers to play online together, as well as offer a curated selection of games to play. And, yes, that also means Games with Gold is going away too. You’ll still have access to those games you downloaded via the program, but there are some things to consider.

Originally launched in 2002, shortly after the launch of the original Xbox, Xbox Live quickly became the standard for online play on consoles. The service evolved with the Xbox 360, featuring various networking capabilities such as cross-game voice chat and messaging, and in 2013, Xbox Live Gold also offered free games each month via Games with Gold. In 2017, however, Microsoft turned to offering another online service with Xbox Game Pass, allowing players to download countless games for around 11 bucks a month on consoles. Now, the services are essentially fusing together on September 14, with the Xbox Live Gold branding being phased out, and Games with Gold ending on September 1. Xbox Game Pass Core, which’ll cost 10 bucks a month, or $60 a year, will offer 25 games to play and access to online multiplayer.

Game Pass will let you keep your Games with Gold games (under one condition)

Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Yes, you will be able to access games you’ve downloaded via the Games with Gold program, but here’s the catch: For Xbox One games, you’ll need to remain a Game Pass Core or Game Pass Ultimate subscriber to keep your Games with Gold games. 

According to Microsoft, Xbox 360 games are exempt from this requirement, as per the copy on the Game Pass Core announcement page:

Regardless of subscription status, any Xbox 360 titles redeemed via Games with Gold in the past will be kept in a player’s library.

If you are an existing Xbox Live Gold subscriber, you’ll automatically convert to Game Pass Core on September 14. Microsoft provided the following list of games that’ll be available on September 14 via the new service, with more to be added ahead of the service’s launch:

  • Among Us
  • Descenders
  • Dishonored 2
  • Doom Eternal
  • Fable Anniversary
  • Fallout 4
  • Fallout 76
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Gears 5
  • Grounded
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Human Fall Flat
  • Inside
  • Ori & The Will of the Wisps
  • Psychonauts 2
  • State of Decay 2
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

Purchase Game Pass: Microsoft

Microsoft promises to add new games to Game Pass Core two to three times each year, in addition to various membership-exclusive deals and discounts.

The pricing of the service is somewhat curious, however. At 10 bucks a month, the full Xbox Game Pass on console is a mere dollar extra. It’s hard to imagine why someone would choose not to just spend the extra dollar and get access to a far larger game library that’s abundantly added to every month. It means Microsoft is now matching PlayStation’s Plus Essential service, which is the same price, with a similar library of games, except Sony’s version still offers a couple of free games every month to subscribers. What a curious move.

Diablo 4 Fixing Bad Menu Tricking Fans Into Buying Battle Pass

Demons try to sell players more battle passes.

Image: Blizzard

Diablo IV’s first season got off to a rocky start following a disastrous patch that nerfed a bunch of characters and builds, but some other, much smaller issues have drawn fan criticism as well, including a battle pass layout that has tricked some players into accidentally buying the premium version. Blizzard’s now rolling out a fix after one player accused the company of employing a “dark pattern” design to trick players.

“So Blizzard placed the ‘Activate Premium Battle Pass’ button right next to the button you have to constantly press to check your Season Journey,” wrote streamer Rurikhan in a tweet that blew up on July 20. “Guess what happened to me and at least 5 others on my stream. This is straight up Malicious Design.”

A clip accompanying the post showed the content creator accidently redeeming the season 1 paid battle bass using his freebie from the Deluxe version of the game. Players are constantly using the season tab on the menu to check their seasonal progress, and the location of the “Activate Premium Battle Pass” button makes it extremely easy to tap it unintentionally. There’s no pop-up giving players a chance to back out of the redemption either.

“When a UI element is designed to trick you into clicking it, it’s called a ‘dark pattern,’ commented gaming YouTube Rhykker in the thread. “IMO Blizzard needs to add a confirm button or something if they don’t want to be accused of using dark patterns. Simple ‘confirm’ pop-up would fix this.”

Others challenged why Rurikhan was upset. After all, it wasn’t a completely new purchase he had made, but an accidental use of his existing freebie. Blizzard probably assumed most players would be using it on Season of the Malignant. Not Rurikhan, however. “I was saving my battle pass for a future season since I don’t have time to commit to this one,” he tweeted.

But it didn’t take Blizzard long to address the complaint and a fix is now expected to roll out soon. “Just had a powwow with people on this post stream,” tweeted Diablo IV community manager Adam Fletcher. “We have a temp fix in the works that will at least ensure the cursor isn’t defaulted there and will instead be defaulted on Season Journey.” At least one player claims they were still denied a refund request after accidentally activating the premium battle pass.

While not the end of the world, it’s easy to see why players would hone in on any potentially exploitative design element in Diablo IV’s first season. The action-RPG is transforming into a live-service game complete with pricey cosmetics and repeatedly battered by waves of balance patches. Blizzard had previously encouraged players to take a break if they weren’t enjoying themselves, but logging off isn’t exactly the sort of thing Diablo has ever incentivized.

 

         

Diablo 4’s Stingy Battle Pass Barely Gives You Any Platinum

An evil guy looks up at the camera.

Screenshot: Blizzard / Kotaku

Like many battle passes for live-service games, Diablo IV lets you earn some of its premium currency as you grind your way through each of the tiers. And while fans might be ready to take the pass’s sweet 666 platinum to their wallets, they certainly won’t be taking it to the in-game shop, as that’s not enough to afford even the cheapest item up for sale.

Last week, Diablo IV kicked its live-service mode into full gear. It hasn’t gone well. At first, Blizzard rolled out an update that turned out to be a proper disaster. Blizzard had to activate its Damage Control skill, hoping to cool down the community with a “we didn’t mean to upset you, babe” livestream. And while it remains to be seen if and how Blizzard rights this ship, fans are also pointing out how unfair the premium currency situation in Diablo IV is.

As a post on Reddit from a few days ago spells out, the most affordable item in Diablo’s microtransaction shop is 800 platinum. That leaves players who complete the battle pass 134 platinum short. And since battle passes cost 1,000 platinum, that 666 won’t even be enough to get next season’s battle pass, assuming its cost doesn’t decrease. Battle passes in many live-service games, such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, and even Halo Infinite, typically reward you with enough premium currency that if you save your digital goods, you’ll have enough to snag next year’s season.

If Diablo IV continues to reward just 666 platinum and keeps its battle pass cost the same, the situation is only going to suck more, as one Redditor points out. If the math remains the same and you save up your battle pass spoils, you’ll eventually be able to afford season three’s pass with 1332 platinum. Then once you earn the next 666 coins, you’ll be at 998, two shy of 1,000. So you’ll have to possibly wait until season five to afford the next one with your base earnings.

Diablo IV’s first stab at this live-service format is turning out much like the first Rogue I built: full of bad decisions that got me mauled to death by ghouls. Time will tell if Blizz can respec its way out of its own bad build.

Starfield’s Free On Game Pass But Still Topping Sales Charts

Starfield is “the biggest Bethesda game launch of all time,” the developer announced on Twitter, with over 6 million players as of September 6, and its initial sales numbers appear to match its splashy reception. After releasing in Early Access beginning on August 31 and then launching globally on September 6, Starfield is topping digital and physical sales charts–despite being available for no cost to some as a free Game Pass title.

It’s currently maintaining its number-two position, which it first assumed in August, on Steam’s global top sales chart. The game is still unable to break Counter Strike: Global Offensive’s 11-year winning streak, but it sure is trying its best: now, it sits at around 200,000 concurrent players. While that’s barely a quarter of CS:GO’s million concurrent players, Starfield is beating other era-defining Bethesda RPGs Skyrim (approximately 20,000 concurrents), Fallout 4 (15,000 concurrents), and The Elder Scrolls Online (14,000 concurrents).

Then, Starfield dominated the UK’s physical sales chart last week, dethroning Hogwarts Legacy and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Starfield is No.1 in the UK boxed charts, which is impressive,” GamesIndustry.Biz head Christopher Dring wrote in a September 10 Twitter thread. “It’s not the biggest physical launch of 2022, […] but it’s almost identical to Diablo 4, and that’s significant because Diablo 4 was a major digital hit.”

“Throw in Game Pass,” Dring continued. “This might be the biggest launch of 2023. And that’s saying something.”

Buy Starfield: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop
Buy Game Pass Ultimate: Best Buy | GameStop

And, while both Xbox and PC owners with Game Pass subscriptions are able to play Starfield for free, some of these Bethesda devotees are choosing to give up $70 just to create an even more impressive launch for Starfield.

“I am on Game Pass, and I purchased the digital version,” one person said in Dring’s Twitter thread. “Three reasons: play [the Digital Premium Edition] early, support Xbox, support Bethesda Studios. It’s something I will be playing for years to come; the better it does, the more support and content the game will get going forward.”

Bethesda has not yet announced official Starfield sales numbers. Kotaku reached out to its parent company Microsoft for comment.

 

Xbox Game Pass Core Reveals All 36 Games Ahead Of Launch

The full list of 36 games for Xbox Live Gold’s replacement, Game Pass Core, has been revealed a day ahead of its launch. And they’re…they’re really good.

18 years of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold comes to an end tomorrow, September 14, when it will be taken out behind the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters and shot dead. An anachronistic hangover of the pre-Game Pass era, Gold and its Games with Gold monthly downloads have recently been limping into obscurity, and at this point it’s a kindness to let it go. In its place will arrive the bouncing new-born puppy, Game Pass Core.

Core, essentially an equivalent to Sony’s PlayStation Plus Essential service, is to be the budget incarnation of Game Pass, lacking access to the service’s full library of hundreds of games, but instead offering a curated selection of 36 titles, along with the somehow still toll-gated access to online gaming. But here’s the thing: they’re 36 really decent games.

We previously learned what 25 of the games would be, but Microsoft kept Goldmembers waiting until the last second to learn the full details of what their accounts would be converting to. Stand-out new titles include Stardew Valley, Vampire Survivors, Among Us, Firewatch, and Dead Cells. Joining the likes of AAA titles such as Dishonored 2, Doom Eternal, and Forza Horizon 4, it’s an eclectic collection that really doesn’t feel like the pile of leftovers a cynical person might have expected. (Hello.)

Core will be priced the same as Gold, at $10 a month, and current customers will be automagically converted over. It’s a confusing price-point, given the fuller version of Game Pass is just a dollar more, and includes all the same games plus literally hundreds more. However, you can also pick up a full year’s worth of Core for $60, which would halve the price, while no such discounts appear to exist for the higher tiers. And honestly, as much as I’d love to gripe, $60 for 36 properly good games is rather good. Meanwhile, Game Pass Ultimate recently upped its price a couple of bucks a month to $16.99.

The catch is, games will only be added to Core two or three times a year, rather than Gold’s system of offering two different games each month. However, as we mentioned, it’s a fine list of games. Here’s the lot:

  • Among Us
  • Astroneer
  • Celeste
  • Dead Cells
  • Descenders
  • Dishonored 2
  • Doom Eternal Standard Edition
  • Fable Anniversary
  • Fallout 4
  • Fallout 76
  • Firewatch
  • Forza Horizon 4 Standard Edition
  • Gang Beasts
  • Gears 5 Game of the Year Edition
  • Golf with your Friends
  • Grounded
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Human Fall Flat
  • Inside
  • Limbo
  • Ori & the Will of the Wisps
  • Overcooked! 2
  • Payday 2: Crimewave Edition
  • Powerwash Simulator
  • Psychonauts 2
  • Slay the Spire
  • Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition
  • Stardew Valley
  • State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition
  • Superliminal
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
  • Unpacking
  • Vampire Survivors

Keen games players will likely have already picked up most of these that interest them in the last couple of years, but then this service really isn’t aimed at you. Think of Core as the version of Game Pass you get your aunt when you buy her her first console, a taster menu of the possibilities of gaming. Heck, just Powerwash Simulator and Fallout 4 would keep most people’s evenings busy for the first year.

Meanwhile, it still sucks beyond comprehension that consoles are still somehow charging monthly tithes for online access. Over at PC Land, it’s all free!

Xbox Leak Hints At Cost Of Bringing Huge Games To Game Pass

Starfield was supposed to be Microsoft’s biggest release of 2022. When it ended up getting delayed, the company looked into striking deals with third-party publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft for major blockbusters it could bring to Game Pass day-and-date to fill the gap. A new internal email exchange leaked from the Federal Trade Commission trial earlier this year shows exactly how much Microsoft thought those deals might be worth, giving us our best sense yet of what it costs to secure blockbusters like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Grand Theft Auto V on the Netflix-like subscription service.

“This is really a disaster sistuation for us given all we’ve invested in content across studios at our GP content fund,” Phil Spencer wrote to fellow Xbox exectuives in a May 7 email. He was referring to Bethesda’s open world sci-fi RPG Starfield, whose delay at the time threatened to leave a 16-month hole in the Xbox first-party exclusive release calendar just two years into the Xbox Series X/S’s life-cycles.

Sarah Bond, Microsoft’s VP of gaming business development, responded to the discussion later in the month with a breakdown of major third-party games expected to arrive throughout 2022 and early 2023 that could make a big splash on Game Pass. Those included everything from Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga to Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, including an analysis of how many hours each game was likely to be played on Game Pass, how much it would cost to get the game on the service, and whether the publisher who owned it would be likely to make a deal.

Here’s the full list of estimates:

  • Lego Star Wars: $35 million
  • Dying Light 2: $50 million
  • Cities: Skylines 2: unknown
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: $5 million per month
  • Dragon Ball: The Breakers: $20 million
  • Just Dance: $5 million
  • Return to Monkey Island: $5 million
  • Wreckfest 2: $10-$14 million
  • Baldur’s Gate 3: $5 million
  • Gotham Knights: $50 million
  • Assassin’s Creed Mirage: $100 million
  • Suicide Squad: $250 million
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor: $300 million
  • Mortal Kombat 1: $250 million
  • Grand Theft Auto V: $12-$15 million per month
  • Blood Runner: $5 million
  • Net Crisis Glitch Busters: $5 million

The estimates vary wildly depending on the size of the release as well as whether it would be day-and-date on the service. Notably, some games like Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Suicide Squad ended up getting delayed (the latter still doesn’t have a new release date). It’s also funny to see Baldur’s Gate 3, one of the biggest games of 2023, low-balled at just $5 million (it’s out on PlayStation 5 now but delayed on Xbox due to issues with the Series S version).

Bond also notes that games like Suicide Squad and Mortal Kombat were unlikely to come to Game Pass due to corporate tumult at Warner Bros. following the merger with Discovery. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor also appeared to be off the table. Gotham Knights and Assassin’s Creed Mirage were considered much more viable and cost-effective deals. And indeed, while not day-and-date, Lego Star Wars did end up coming to Game Pass on December 1 of last year. Today, Microsoft officially announced Gotham Knights is arriving as well.

Companies like Activision (soon to be acquired by Microsoft) and Sony have been critical of day-and-date deals with subscription services, claiming it devalues games sold for $70. The PS5-maker has specificaly said it won’t bring blockbusters like Spider-Man 2 to its competitor, PS Plus, until years later to avoid cannibalizing sales, arguing that the economics aren’t sustainable for high-quality first-party exclusives. Microsoft has disagreed, promoting services like Game Pass as a way to introduce games to bigger audiences and claiming that it actually increases how much subscribers spend on the platform.

Spencer’s email exchange with Bond ends on a note about what ended up being the biggest game of 2022. “Another option with the hit factor around Elden Ring is to try to get all of the Dark Souls games and make a push with [FromSoftware] and an Elden Ring upsell,” Spencer wrote. “Like that one,” Bond wrote back. “Will do.” It’s not clear if Microsoft is still pursuing that deal.

          

Lies Of P, Payday 3 And Gotham Knights Coming To Xbox Game Pass

A troupe of Payday 3 characters in suits and masks rob a bank while shooting offscreen.

Image: Starbreeze Studios

Microsoft has announced the next crop of games you can snatch up on Xbox Game Pass for the rest of September and the early parts of October. The offerings are pretty lowkey, but there’s some cool stuff to download right now.

For starters, Lies of P, the gritty Soulslike by South Korean developers Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio, is available now on Xbox consoles. That was already a day-one on Xbox Game Pass announcement, but since the game’s now officially launched, you can finally go download it. And that’s about it for what’s available right this moment. For the rest of the next batch of games you’ll have to wait between a couple of days to a couple weeks.

The quirky physics-based brawler Party Animals, for example, will be available on September 20. Payday 3, the first-person bank robbery shooter, lands a day after on September 21. Adventure puzzler Cocoon, from the lead gameplay designer of the atmospheric platformers Inside and Limbo, arrives on September 29. And that’s it for September.

Bringing up the rear are the superhero brawler Gotham Knights and The Lamplighter’s League, the turn-based strategy game from Harebrained Schemes, which hit Xbox Game Pass on October 3. While that’s a bunch of games coming to the subscription service, as is customary with these sorts of things, a handful of titles are also leaving very soon. Seven games will get booted from the vault come September 30, including the 2D side-scrolling Soulslike Moonscars, the live-service shooter Outriders, the action-RPG Weird West, and a few others. RIP.

Below is a breakdown of all the Xbox Game Pass games coming and going:

Xbox Game Pass titles coming in September/October

  • Lies of P – Available now
  • Party Animals – Available September 20
  • Payday 3 – Available September 21
  • Cocoon – Available September 29
  • Gotham Knights – Available October 3
  • The Lamplighter’s League – Available October 3

Departing games

  • Beacon Pines (Cloud, Console, and PC)
  • Despot’s Game (Cloud, Console, and PC)
  • Last Call BBS (PC)
  • Moonscars (Cloud, Console, and PC)
  • Outriders (Cloud, Console, and PC)
  • Prodeus (Cloud, Console, and PC)
  • Weird West (Cloud, Console, and PC)

Buy Xbox Game Pass: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

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Activision Blizzard Games Should Appear On Game Pass In 2024

When speculation rife that Microsoft expects to finalize its purchase of Activision Blizzard this week, and COD: Modern Warfare III out in a month, it seems people have been wondering when Activision’s games will start appearing on Microsoft’s Game Pass. According to a tweet from Activision Blizzard, it should be some time next year.

The entire debacle of Microsoft’s attempts to buy Activision Blizzard feels it has been clogging up gaming news for years. In fact, it all started only last January, but followed hot on the heels of months of grim and gruesome reporting on the heinous working conditions at the developer’s various studios. This week could see that enormous, shitty chapter come to a close. Presumably so another enormous, shitty chapter can start.

But still, more games on Game Pass!

“As we continue to work toward regulatory approval of the Microsoft deal,” said Activision Blizzard on X, “we’ve been getting some questions whether our upcoming and recently launched games will be available via Game Pass.”

The Verge reported on Friday that Microsoft is getting ready to close the $68.7 billion deal, with October 13 thought to be the Big Day. Of course, this is all being held back by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is the one international regulator that managed to decisively block the deal. However, being the UK’s CMA, it did it in the most cack-handed way, blathering on about unfair market control of cloud gaming, or some-such abstract technicality.

This complete whiff, entirely ignoring the concerns of, you know, Microsoft forming an actual monopoly, ensured a pathway for the two corporations to renegotiate arrangements such that it would avert the CMA’s peculiar strategy, and a couple of weeks ago it was provisionally stated it had succeeded. We should be finding out this week if the CMA is entirely satisfied, and given that’s likely to be the case, signet-ring-bearing hands will shake and overpriced Champagne shall be popped, as a bunch of extraordinarily rich people stand to get even richer.

Read More: Hold Onto Your Butts, Microsoft’s Massive Activision Blizzard Deal Is Finally Happening

“While we do not have plans to put Modern Warfare III or Diablo IV into Game Pass this year,” continues that Activision tweet, “once the deal closes, we expect to start working with Xbox to bring our titles to more players around the world.” So when? “And we anticipate that we would begin adding games into Game Pass sometime in the course of next year.”

It’s oddly slow, if anything. They’ll be the same company, and they’ve known they would been the same company for the last 20 months, so it seems strange that it’ll take another few months before Microsoft will be hosting what will suddenly become first-party games on its own streaming service.

There’s one small cloud hanging over their grey-suited celebrations: the FTC still has an appear in with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and that decision won’t appear until December. Should it succeed, it would then become about trying to undo the already sealed deal, which would be a whole other level of difficult, and no one surely believes the FTC has the teeth or the fight in it to win.

So, the industry shrinks yet again, with less competition, fewer major publishers attempting to outsell each other, and so less choice and worse prices for the gaming public. It doesn’t seem like the games industry can be far away from the monstrous and idiotic situation of the music industry, in the control of the Big Four record labels. It certainly seems unlikely that any regulatory bodies will be able to stop it, either way.

But you know, you can get next year’s COD on your subscription, so shhhhh.

RuneScape Ditches Battle Pass After Players Revolt

The just-introduced RuneScape battle pass has nowhere near the longevity of the 22-year-old game to which it belongs: after debuting the pass on September 4, developer Jagex plans to terminate it on December 3, it wrote in an October 6 update post.

RuneScape fans have won the war. They initiated it immediately after Jagex debuted the Hero Pass, which tacks onto the $80, 12-month, premier membership tier that unlocks every RuneScape area and gameplay mechanic. The Hero Pass was meant to give players a new event every three months in which they would do things like earn points for cosmetics—so, your typical battle pass, but players already couldn’t stand RuneScape’s increased reliance on microtransactions in its Treasure Hunter loot boxes.

Their anger erupted with Hero Pass’s debut in September, and, according to recent negative Steam reviews, people who have been playing RuneScape for 15, 16, or even 20 years decided to give it up.

“Jagex have always been controversial in their updates, mostly due to their cash grabs through microtransactions, and the latest [battle pass] update takes the cake,” a negative review with 160 “helpful” ratings as of this writing says. “[Microtransactions] have killed this game. As a player of 16yrs of grinding, I am out. Time to find other alternatives.”

Jagex tried pacifying fans on September 6, writing in a blog that it was “looking to work towards areas where we can make this [battle pass] system better for everyone,” but players maintained they were disturbed by a battle pass in any form. It didn’t help that this one was so lackluster, though.

“I’m a whale and I hate battle pass,” said one Reddit post on the Runescape board with over 1,000 upvotes. “The constant in-game pop ups are intrusive, most of the cosmetics are lackluster at best, […] who is this battle pass even for?”

The feedback stacked until Jagex got the message.

“Every single player of RuneScape—whether currently active or taking a break—matters,” it decided in its October blog. “RuneScape has a long future ahead of it, and we intend to make that an ever-better experience where players have more influence on how the game evolves.”

And so, “we will not be releasing another Hero Pass after [current season] Underworld ends on December 3rd,” “we have done this to recognize questions it raised that do not reflect our direction for the game,” and “if we pursue a new reward-system, it will be built with players and not involve Content Buffs with Membership/paid disparity.” Power to the people.

New Xbox Series S Bundle Includes Free Game Pass Sub

An image shows an Xbox controller resting on an Xbox Series S console.

Image: Xbox / Kotaku

Microsoft’s getting ready for the holiday shopping season with a new Xbox Series S bundle that includes three months of Game Pass Ultimate at no additional cost. When you consider how many great games are available on Game Pass and how solid the tinier Xbox Series S is as a console, this new starter bundle might be the best deal in video games in 2023.

On October 12, Microsoft announced the Xbox Series S Starter Bundle via its official news blog. The new bundle--which goes on sale October 31— includes an Xbox Series S console and three months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership for $299. This means that it’s the same price as a base Xbox Series S. Microsoft says the three months of Game Pass amount to a $50 value. Once the three months are up, players will have to start paying if they want to keep using the service.

Pre-order the Xbox Series S Starter Bundle: Microsoft

While the Xbox Series S isn’t as powerful as PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, the little console isn’t a slouch either. And considering many people still game on 1080p TVs, the Series S’s lack of native 4K gaming isn’t necessarily that big of a deal. For folks looking to hop into the “next generation of gaming,” this new bundle is a good option. It’s also tempting for people who want a second console to power-up a spare TV in a bedroom or living room.

Keep in mind that the Series S doesn’t include a disc drive, so you’d only be able to play digital versions of games and movies. Oh, and this isn’t the recently announced all-black Series S with more storage, either.

Xbox

Because the bundle includes Game Pass Ultimate, you don’t just get access to the base Game Pass library and all of Microsoft’s first-party games, but also all the EA Play games included with the subscription, as well as Game Pass’ library of Windows games and the ability to stream some Xbox titles to your phone or other devices.

If you’re looking for some games to play on the Xbox Series S (or X) we keep a continually updated tally of some of our favorites. We also keep tabs on the best Game Pass games and even the best spooky games available on Microsoft’s subscription service. And yes, Game Pass gets you access to Starfield, a game that runs surprisingly well on the small Xbox Series S.

Pre-order the Xbox Series S Starter Bundle: Microsoft

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