Earlier this month, Microsoft began testing a new Xbox Game Pass subscription package that allows up to five people to share membership benefits simultaneously.
The test is limited to Ireland and Colombia, but branding shared by the Twitter leaker Aggiornamenti Lumia (opens in new tab) suggests that it’s going well enough for Microsoft to be thinking of a full rollout.
pic.twitter.com/9K40x15YhvAugust 27, 2022
As you can see from the tweet above, it seems that the tier will simply be called “Friends & Family” which feels both extremely safe and quite risky at the same time.
On one hand, that kind of branding has been used by cell phone providers for ages and is pretty self-explanatory. But on the other hand, the “Friends” part suggests that Microsoft is happy to allow subscribers to share accounts between households, which is something that corporations have been deeply suspicious of in the past.
The trial certainly seems to permit this, specifically stating that it’s aimed at “friends and family across console, PC and cloud” with the only restriction being that users “must reside in the same country as you.”
That’s bold because account sharing has vexed streaming giants like Netflix, pushing it to crack down on password sharing.
Even those that allow multi-user accounts are wary of making it a free-for-all. Spotify’s “Family” plan, for example, specifically requires you to reside at the same address as those you want to share with, and the company has even considered location tracking in order to police usage (opens in new tab).
Maybe that’s just a reflection on the different use cases: most households have multiple smartphones, but few have several Xboxes. But all the same, it feels pleasingly generous from Microsoft.
Of course, we may have to reevaluate that assessment when official pricing is revealed: if it’s barely less than the cost of five Xbox Game Passes, then it would feel quite miserly.
But that doesn’t feel very likely for a couple of reasons: first, Microsoft doesn’t want to alienate smaller friendship groups from the upgrade. Second — for the test at least — pricing seems quite reasonable.
While you can’t actually buy a test membership, you can backwards engineer the pricing from the way it converts existing memberships. Microsoft says that a full month of Game Pass Ultimate will convert to 18 days of the new sharing plan, and given the former currently costs $15 a month, that means a full month comes to $25.
Hopefully this leaked branding is a sign that Microsoft is preparing to roll out the new membership tier. If it is, the company may have a very strong argument as to why the Xbox Series X should be the console to get this holiday rather than the PS5.