Microsoft is removing the free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate benefit for most of its 238,000 employees and some aren’t happy about it. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company started informing employees this week that in January 2024 the free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate benefit for permanent Microsoft employees will no longer be available.
I understand that Xbox employees will continue to keep the benefit, but the vast majority of Microsoft employees who aren’t part of Xbox / Microsoft Gaming will see the benefit disappear next year. Microsoft employees will be able to purchase a discounted 12-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Subscription at the company’s internal store.
Some Microsoft employees have taken to the company’s internal messaging platform to voice their objections about the benefit being removed. The employee posts even prompted Xbox chief Phil Spencer to respond, noting that he wasn’t aware of the changes and is looking into the situation.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft to comment on the Game Pass removal, but the company didn’t respond in time for publication.
The removal of the Microsoft employee benefit comes months after Xbox Game Pass saw a price hike for the first time. Microsoft moved Xbox Game Pass Ultimate from $14.99 per month to $16.99, alongside price increases for the Xbox Series X console in most markets outside the US. Microsoft also launched Xbox Game Pass Core in September to replace Xbox Live Gold.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer warned more than a year ago that Xbox Game Pass growth on console had slowed down, with Microsoft choosing to focus more on PC Game Pass throughout 2023. Microsoft hasn’t provided updated Game Pass subscriber numbers for nearly two years now.
Microsoft said Xbox Game Pass had grown to 25 million subscribers in January 2022, but we haven’t had an update since then — even as Starfield, Forza Motorsport, and plenty of other games have contributed to Game Pass throughout 2023.