Microsoft to Axe Free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Perk for Employees [Update]

Microsoft plans to discontinue the free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate perk for the majority of its 238,000-strong workforce, starting January 2024. That’s according to sources speaking with The Verge. Of course, the cost-cutting move has left some employees not happy about the move.

While Xbox division employees will retain this perk, most others outside the Xbox and Microsoft Gaming departments will lose out. However, they will have the option to buy a 12-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Subscription at a discounted rate from the company’s internal store.

The move has led to a flurry of discussions on the company’s internal messaging platform, with some employees expressing their disappointment. Xbox head, Phil Spencer, addressed the concerns, stating he was unaware of the changes and would be investigating the matter.

This decision follows the recent price increase of the Xbox Game Pass, which went from $14.99 to $16.99 USD per month. Additionally, the Xbox Series X console also saw a price surge in several markets outside the US. In a bid to replace Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft introduced the Xbox Game Pass Core in September.

Phil Spencer had previously indicated a slowdown in Xbox Game Pass growth on consoles, leading the company to shift its focus to the PC Game Pass in 2023. Although Microsoft reported a surge to 25 million subscribers for Xbox Game Pass in January 2022, no recent figures have been shared, despite the addition of popular games like Starfield and Forza Motorsport in 2023.

Losing an employee perk that costs the company next to nothing definitely feels like penny-pinching on Microsoft’s part.

Update Nov. 3, 2023: The Verge has shared an update to say the move has been reversed by Xbox chief Phil Spencer:

After looking into this more with the team, I just want to confirm that no change will be made to Game Pass availability in 2024. If you have access to the Game Pass offer today you will continue to have access. I appreciate the time to get up to speed and sorry for the questions and confusion created. And thanks for supporting Xbox.

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