Bad news, everyone: We'll no longer be able to live high on the hog of Microsoft's largesse. The Verge reports that the company is terminating its long-lived—and very persuasive—$1 Game Pass Ultimate trial, which gave you a month's access to the 100+ games in the PC and Xbox Game Pass libraries for the low, low price of barely anything.
Microsoft hasn't said why it's choosing to retire the $1 trial now, after so many years of availability, but did tell The Verge that it's "evaluating different marketing promotions for new members in the future". It could well be the case that the trial ends up replaced by some other scheme designed to tempt players onto the full $15/£11 per month Game Pass bandwagon in the near future.
I've reached out to Microsoft to ask about its choice to retire the trial, and I'll update this piece if I hear back.
Game Pass has fallen short of Microsoft's targets for two years in a row now. Fiscal year 2022 (which ended on June 30 last year) saw a subscriber growth rate of 28.07%, which sounds pretty good until you realise that Microsoft was targeting a growth rate of 72.88% that year. Fiscal year 2021 tells a similar story, making fiscal year 2020 the last time that Game Pass managed to outpace Microsoft's growth expectations.
So it could just be that the $1 Game Pass trial isn't doing its job anymore, which is tempting players into trying out the service before locking them in for months or years, and Microsoft has decided to reorient its strategy around some new offer that it hopes will do a better job of getting subs to stick around.
Plus, Microsoft is operating in a very different landscape than the one that the $1 Game Pass trial was born into. The service broke 25 million subs in January 2022, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer is on record saying that its growth on console has slowed "because at some point you’ve reached everybody on console that wants to subscribe". If Game Pass wants to get back to hitting its targets, something's gotta give, and it turns out that something is, well, our ability to grab a month of Game Pass Ultimate for a buck.
I think I might have enjoyed multiple $1 trials of Game Pass in my time—another thing Microsoft probably wants to crack down on—so I'll be sad to see it go. And while I'm sure the company is hard at work coming up with some alternative offer to replace it, I imagine it won't be quite as delicious as the old one.