Xbox Live Gold vs. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: Which should you get?

(CNN) —  

Microsoft recently caused a bit of a stir on the internet, announcing plans to effectively double the price of its Xbox Live Gold service before backtracking on them a day later. While the lack of a price hike is good news, it still leaves Xbox owners with an important choice to make: Get Xbox Live Gold for online play, or spring for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a more all-in-one package?

We’ve long argued that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the best value in gaming, getting you access to hundreds of games on top of the online perks of Xbox Live Gold. But not everyone may want or need the massive library of titles found in Game Pass, and more casual or focused players could save a few bucks a month by sticking to Gold.

Wondering which of Microsoft’s two premium subscription services is for you? Here’s how Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate compare.

At a glance

Xbox Live Gold:

  • What is Xbox Live Gold? Xbox Live Gold provides access to online play on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and provides a monthly selection of free games and special discounts.
  • How much is Xbox Live Gold? $9.99 per month, $24.99 for three months, $39.99 for six months, $59.99 for 12 months.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate:

  • What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate? Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you a Netflix-style library of hundreds of games you can play across Xbox, PC and Android, including all first-party Microsoft releases as soon as they come out. Ultimate also includes all of the perks of Xbox Live Gold.
  • How much is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate? $14.99 per month.

Xbox Live Gold: Who it’s for

PHOTO: Microsoft

Xbox Live Gold starts at $9.99 per month (with three month memberships available for $24.99 and 12 month memberships available for $59.99) and is currently required for playing most Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S games online. It also gets you access to a handful of free games every month, as well as exclusive discounts.

If you only play a handful of online titles on your Xbox One, Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S and aren’t interested in the hundreds of games available on Game Pass, you’ll technically save a bunch of money sticking with Gold compared to the $14.99 per month Game Pass Ultimate subscription. And since Gold is no longer required to play free-to-play titles such as Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone, you could get by without paying for either service depending on your game of choice. But it’s worth considering the long-term value of switching to Game Pass Ultimate.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: Who it’s for

For just a few extra bucks per month at $14.99, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gets you all of the perks of Xbox Live Gold — and a whole lot more. The highest tier of Microsoft’s gaming subscription service, Game Pass Ultimate, provides access to hundreds of games that you can play on Xbox, PC and even your Android phone via cloud streaming.

Xbox Game Pass’ massive game library includes all Xbox Game Studios releases on the same day they hit shelves, meaning subscribers automatically get titles like Gears 5, Minecraft Dungeons and the upcoming Halo Infinite without having to shell out an extra $60 a pop. That’s not to mention the troves of big-name third-party titles on Game Pass — including Doom Eternal, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order and Destiny 2 — as well as a huge collection of compelling indie titles like Donut County and Among Us.

If any of those games are of interest to you, subscribing to Game Pass Ultimate could save you a ton of money that you’d otherwise spend buying them a la carte. And if you also play games on PC or want the ability to stream your Xbox games to your Android phone while on the go, Ultimate is a no-brainer.

Bottom line

Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate both have their pros and cons. If you’re the type of player that just wants to be able to play Madden or Grand Theft Auto online on their Xbox and doesn’t care about having access to a huge, Netflix-style game library, you’re better off with the cheaper Gold subscription.

If you want the absolute most for your money, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will get you all of the benefits of Gold in addition to hundreds of games you can play across your Xbox, PC and Android device. And if your main game is a free-to-play title like Fortnite or Warzone, you don’t really need either.

Are you a Gold member wondering if Ultimate is worth the extra few bucks per month? You can always upgrade your Gold membership to a Game Pass Ultimate membership for just $1 (yes, a dollar) for three months of service. That will give you plenty of time to decide whether Microsoft’s all-inclusive plan is right for you, or if you’d rather pay a little less and stick with Gold. While we’d love for Microsoft to eventually have one subscription to rule them all, it never hurts to have options.