Gears 5 is to get a new campaign expansion next week. It is available at no additional cost to members of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a $ 15 monthly subscription. Everyone else has to pay. This is just another benefit, pointing to a growing gap between the entry-level and premium tiers of Microsoft’s Games-on-Demand service.
The new extension, officially titled Gears 5: Hivebustersis a comprehensive campaign extension. Instead of the characters from the main game – Kait Diaz, Del Walker, and a few other sentient biceps – you play as three characters from the main game’s escape mode. You are part of a team called the “Scorpio Squad” and are sent on an obvious “suicide mission”. Hmm … if just rearranging some of those words, maybe we could end up with a poorly-received superhero movie instead.
Gears 5: Hivebusters will be available on December 15th. Non-Game Pass members can pick it up for $ 20, while members of the monthly starter tier of $ 10 can get it at a discount. The value proposition Microsoft created here is unmistakable: you can get this expansion for the price of a month and to switch from Game Pass Ultimate. If you are already a Game Pass member, your membership can be upgraded to the Ultimate tier for four months for the same dollar amount.
All of this is in line with Microsoft’s not even remotely obscure business model of “getting everyone in the world to sign up for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.” As of last month, members of the premium level also have bundled access to EA games, which includes a robust catalog of games from the Californian publisher. (Yes, all from BioWare Dragon Age
There’s also the issue of cloud gaming which allows you to stream Game Pass games to your mobile devices. Service is spotty, but technically works well. It is only available to members of the higher Game Pass level.
On top of that, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also comes with an Xbox Live Gold membership which gives access to online multiplayer as well as the company’s monthly amount Games with gold Program. The standard level offers no such benefit.
This may sound like I’m shilling for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. For sure, I enjoy the serviceand think it’s a great deal for now. But make no mistake: I’m saying all of this as heads up.
You’ve no doubt heard people say Game Pass is “Netflix for Games” or something like that. Let’s take a walk back in time. In 2014, Netflix’s Premium tier, which allows perks like streaming 4K videos and viewing them on four screens at once, was available for $ 12. Three years later it jumped to $ 14. Last year that number rose to $ 16. For now, It’s $ 18. However, Netflix’s basic perkless tier is $ 9, just a dollar more than in 2014.
That’s the nature of the subscription model: tune in customers at a lower level, slowly add perks that become irresistible (especially once you’ve had a taste), and regularly increase the price. According to the latest figures, Xbox has Game Pass 15 million members. This is from 10 million in the spring.
So far, Microsoft has not released how many of them are paying for the Ultimate tier.