Microsoft's Xbox is encouraging players to extend paid Xbox Live Gold subscriptions by up to three years in order to make the most of an upgrade offer for the new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate scheme. Here's what it is, how to get it, and how it measures up to PlayStation, Nintendo, and Google Stadia equivalents.
Xbox's traditional paid online access plan, Xbox Live Gold, combined with games subscription service Xbox Game Pass at June's 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo, has given rise to the optional Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
The new scheme provides access to the benefits of Xbox Live Gold -- primarily online multiplayer and group voice chat -- as well as the regularly expanding library of high-profile video games included in Xbox Game Pass.
Since the combined scheme's announcement, observant fans noticed that Xbox would allow existing Xbox Live Gold subscribers to convert their remaining months of Gold membership into Game Pass Ultimate time at a flat rate of US$1.
The technique was provided for in Xbox's small print, up to and including 36 months' worth of Xbox Live Gold conversion, and now the official Xbox blog has also lent its approval.
"If you're a current Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass member, and have prepaid months, you'll get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for all of those months when you upgrade, for a limited time," the post reads.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is usually $14.99 per month.
Since Sony's PlayStation 4 began outselling the Xbox One at the start of the current console generation, Xbox has been looking for ways to regain momentum.
One of its biggest successes has been the launch of Xbox Game Pass, which expands upon the PlayStation Plus concept to provide a high-profile offering worthy of the "Netflix-for-games" tag that video game companies have been chasing.
PlayStation has been running PlayStation Plus, a monthly game collection scheme, since 2010, requiring Plus membership (also US$59 per year) for PlayStation 4 online multiplayer since 2013; game streaming service PlayStation Now remains separate for the time being at least.
Both Xbox and PlayStation are expected to launch new consoles in 2020, with game streaming and subscription memberships to form a foundational pillar for both companies.
Nintendo, which is enjoying great success with the launch of 2017's Nintendo Switch, entered the domain of paid online access membership schemes in September 2018, though at the lower price of US$19 per year for a single Nintendo Account or $34.99 for up to 8 Nintendo Accounts as part of a Family Group. Complimentary games have included "Tetris 99" and retro titles from the NES era.
Perhaps more of a concern for Microsoft's Xbox is the November 2019 launch of Google Stadia, which requires only the use of a device running web browser Google Chrome and, initially, a US$129 Founder's Pack which contains a Chromecast Ultra device, the otherwise optional Stadia controller ($69 MSRP), three months of service (around $30), and another three months of Stadia Pro for gifting.