What is Xbox Game Pass Core? Why is it Replacing Xbox Live?

edited August 2023 in Gaming

In September 2023, Microsoft will launch a new gaming subscription service for Xbox console owners. The existing Xbox Live Gold will be sunset and replaced by a new Xbox Game Pass Core tier.

The new service begins on September 14. Microsoft positions Game Pass Core as "an evolution of Xbox Live Gold" that promises:

  • Xbox online console multiplayer support 
  • Game Pass deals and discounts 
  • Curated selection of 25 games 
  • New titles are added 2-3 times a year

If you remain a Game Pass Core or Game Pass Ultimate member, fret not – you'll keep all the games you've redeemed via Games with Gold.

Microsoft is determined to ensure its gaming legacy thrives with Xbox Game Pass Core. Game of the Year winning titles, including Fallout 4, Psychonauts 2, and Doom Eternal will be available for the launch. Let's see what’s in store for you.

What is Xbox Live Gold

Started in 2002, Xbox Live Gold was the online subscription service for the original Xbox, and you could play multiplayer games online with voice chat. You needed Xbox Live Gold to play any online multiplayer games, except for some free-to-play games such as:

  • Fortnite 
  • Rocket League 
  • Call of Duty: Warzone 
  • Apex Legends

Xbox Live Gold will end on September 14, with members automatically shifting to Game Pass Core. The new tier’s price will stay the same, but the perk of free monthly games will cease from September 1 onwards.

What is Game Pass Core? 

Game Pass Core is the successor to Xbox Live Gold. The new base tier joins Console, PC, and Ultimate plans. Core is required to access your console’s Xbox Network multiplayer. 

The console subscription is for your:

  • Xbox Series X 
  • Xbox Series S 
  • Xbox One

The new service will cost $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year. Game Pass Core will include member discounts and online multiplayer gaming access, but unlike Xbox Live Gold, there won't be free monthly games.

Instead, you'll immediately access a new collection of over 25 high-quality console games to play with friends worldwide, including:

  • Gears 5 
  • Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice 
  • Grounded 
  • Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

While Game Pass Core shares many features with Xbox Live Gold, a significant shift is the discontinuation of monthly free games. Instead, you'll have continual access to over 25 titles.

What is the difference between Game Pass Core, Console, and Ultimate? 

If you play on a console, Game Pass offers 3 subscription options:

Core ($9.99/month): 

  • Online console multiplayer 
  • Over 25 console games 
  • Member discounts & deals

Console ($10.99/month): 

  • Hundreds of console games 
  • New games on day one 
  • Member discounts & deals 
  • No online multiplayer

Ultimate ($16.99/month): 

  • Hundreds of console, PC, and cloud games 
  • New games on day one 
  • Member discounts & deals 
  • Online console multiplayer 
  • EA Play membership

Which Xbox Game Pass is right for me? 

Core's best-selling point is not the free games but the ability to play online. Core might be your perfect match if you have a few go-to games you play online routinely. This new tier provides console gamers with a more affordable online gaming route than the Ultimate tier.

Xbox Game Pass Console delivers access to over 100 games for a single monthly fee, but it lacks the online multiplayer element. Multiplayer is only an option with free-to-play games, which include blockbuster titles like Fortnite, PUBG, and Halo: Infinite.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate represents the apex. Think of it as the Netflix of video gaming. If you're looking for access to a library of over 100 games, online play capabilities, and multi-device accessibility, Ultimate is your go-to. The price is reasonable as you get to play dozens of games per year for the cost of just three new console games purchased at retail.

The new subscription tier, Game Pass Core, comes when Microsoft has bumped its Ultimate subscription price. It's the budget option for console players who love online gaming. It's limited compared to Game Pass Ultimate, with its many games, multiplayer and multi-device options. But if you're all about a few favorite online games, Game Pass Core keeps it affordable.

What consoles will Game Pass Core support? 

Online console multiplayer support is on:

  • Xbox Series X 
  • Xbox Series S 
  • Xbox One 
  • Xbox 360

All Xbox players can access free-to-play multiplayer games. Multiplayer games not included with Game Pass Core are sold separately.

However, the free games catalog is only playable on:

  • Xbox Series X 
  • Xbox Series S 
  • Xbox One

What will happen to my Xbox Live Gold Membership? 

Your Xbox Live Gold membership will seamlessly transition to a Game Pass Core membership on September 14, 2023. Your subscription rates will stay the same as what you currently pay for Xbox Live Gold:

  • Monthly: $9.99 
  • Yearly: $59.99

Starting September 1, Microsoft plans to phase out the Games with Gold program. This service, which has let you claim free games each month for the past decade, will halt. However, not all is lost.

Any Xbox One games collected through this program will remain available to play, provided you retain your Game Pass Core or Game Pass Ultimate membership. Any claimed Xbox 360 games will remain in your library even if you don't maintain a subscription.

As the Games with Gold program concludes, Game Pass Core subscribers will have access to 25 titles, plus 2 - 3 new titles annually.

Member deals and discounts aren't going anywhere – they'll persist with your Game Pass Core membership. Despite the "Xbox Live" name fading away, the fundamental aspects of the service will stick around. You'll keep your Gamertag, the option to play online, your friend list, and your existing game library. All that's really changing is the name.

What games will be available on Xbox Game Pass Core?

Here's a list of every game confirmed for Xbox Game Pass Core:

  • 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

It's worth noting that the games included may change over time and within countries.

Xbox Game Pass Core: Release date and price 

Xbox Game Pass Core is launching on September 14 for all Xbox console users. The current Xbox Live Gold service will cease on September 1, with members transitioning automatically to Game Pass Core.

Pricing for Game Pass Core will match that of Live Gold. Opt for a monthly subscription at $9.99 or an annual deal at $59.99, saving you under $60 compared to monthly subscriptions over the year.

Why the shift to Xbox Game Pass Core? 

This rebranding marks Microsoft's journey into the ninth console generation with the Xbox Series X|S, envisioning Xbox Live Gold as a fresh beginning for its online service.

Before this transition, Microsoft offered its game library and online multiplayer as two distinct subscription services: 

  1. Xbox Live: Online Multiplayer gaming 
  2. Xbox Game Pass: Gaming Library

Xbox Live's strength has waned with the Xbox Game Pass subscription service launch in 2017. With Xbox Live morphing into a Game Pass Core tier, Microsoft aims to streamline its services, offering users clarity in its brand and offerings. 

The Core launch is not just a significant milestone for the Xbox online community; it also represents a strategic move by Microsoft. The company hopes that simplifying its offerings will attract new subscribers and guide them toward the premium tiers of Game Pass.

Microsoft is on the verge of acquiring Activision-Blizzard, to massively expand its PC and mobile gaming footprint. Many of the publisher's back catalog will likely hit Xbox Game Pass shortly after the deal finalizes. Then Game Pass will double in size with tens of millions of new subscribers. Changing the name seems to make sense, as it's a core part of their strategy.

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It'll be interesting to see where it all goes from here.  

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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