Currently gamers can pay just $1 to access hundreds of titles across PC and Xbox via Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service—but don’t activate that one-month trial just yet. If you play your cards right, you can use that same dollar to lock in a steep discount on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for up to three years.
(Update November 2022: This trick still works as of Nov 24, 2022.)
When you activate Microsoft’s promotion, it not only begins the trial, but also converts existing Xbox Live Gold and standard Xbox Game Pass subscriptions on your account to Game Pass Ultimate (normally $15 per month) at a 1:1 rate. Any prepaid time up to the maximum of three years gets the upgrade.
Looking to load up on Xbox Live Gold at a discount? Keep an eye out for sales at Newegg. For a while it was dropping the price of a 1-year subscription to $50 USD about every two to three weeks—though the last time was in early June. (You can set a deal alert for “xbox live” at Slickdeals.net for an email or push notification of future deals.) But even the regular price of $60 USD per 12-month code, this hack is smoking.
So if you have only three months of Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass (or a combination of the two) on your account, you’ll end up with three months for your Game Pass Ultimate subscription, plus the additional one month from the trial tacked on. Equally, 36 months of prepaid time transforms into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a full three years.
Pretty sweet, right? Multiplatform gamers obviously gain quite a bit from this deal, as Game Pass Ultimate bundles together Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass, and Xbox Game Pass for PC. You’ll get unlimited access to a full range of titles across platforms, including upcoming Halo, Gears of War, and other Microsoft first-party game releases on PC.
But even gamers who play exclusively on PC benefit: Though Xbox Game Pass for PC only initially cost $5 per month, that price lasted only through the beta period, which ended September 16, 2020.
Loading up an account with three years of Xbox Live Gold ($180) and then converting it to Game Pass Ultimate for an additional $1 essentially locks in that $5-per-month rate for three years, which outlives the beta period pricing by a long shot. (You should be able to do this conversion trick if you participated in the Xbox Game Pass for PC beta.) Afterward, you can still convert Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass memberships to Game Pass Ultimate, but at a pro-rated amount.
Read on for a step-by-step guide of how to secure this deal, which includes tips on how to maximize your savings.
!- News alert -!
Talk is swirling that Microsoft may eliminate Xbox Live Gold, which would kill this deal hack. A report from Brad Sams (of Thurrott.com) claims that the company is seeking to make Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (and its $15-per-month rate) the base-level plan. You can hear the details from Sams himself in this YouTube video, in which he also suggests that the death of Gold could happen when Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard closes in 2023, if approved by U.S. regulators.
On top of that, current energy prices are driving up costs for Microsoft’s cloud computing services, leading the company to hint that price increases on Xbox consoles and subscriptions (like Game Pass) could come to pass. Our best guess is that no changes would be likely during the brisk holiday sales period, but after the start of 2023 it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.
How to convert Xbox Live Gold (or Xbox Game Pass) to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
The most basic description of what you’ll do is this:
Buy Xbox Live Gold
Activate the $1 Xbox Game Pass Ultimate trial
Agree to a conversion of your Gold and/or standard Game Pass subscription(s) to Game Pass Ultimate
However, you can run into a few pitfalls during this process—especially if you’re going for the maximum of three years. The detailed instructions below will help you avoid those mistakes.
Decide how long you want Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. To make the most of the deal, get as close to three years of Xbox Live Gold (or Xbox Live Gold + standard Xbox Game Pass) as possible, which is the maximum amount of time you can prepay.
Add months to an Xbox Live Gold subscription using digital subscription codes purchased from Microsoft or another retailer (Amazon, Newegg, Target, etc.). Increase the time on Xbox Live Gold, not standard Xbox Game Pass—Xbox Live Gold is the cheaper option.
Note: Microsoft discontinued selling 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions on its website during the summer of 2020, but third-party retailers (like Amazon, Newegg, Target, etc) still sell them for now.
Add time in the largest increments possible—a 12-month code for Gold works out much cheaper per month than the one-month, three-month, and six-month varieties. When purchasing codes, always remember that Microsoft’s servers won’t let you redeem a code for a duration that exceeds the 36-month cap. (Example: You’re at 34 months, but attempt to redeem a three-month code. The servers will not let you activate it.) Short multi-day trial codes for Xbox Live Gold won’t work for this promotion, like those for three days or two weeks.
WARNING: If you buy three 1-year subscriptions, do not turn on recurring billing while redeeming the codes. Any extra freebie months you get for doing so will make it impossible to redeem the final code.
Don’t forget that this Game Pass Ultimate $1 promotion includes one month of service that stacks on top of whatever amount of Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription time you convert. You won’t get the full month if it puts you over the 36 month limit, though.
When redeeming an Xbox Live Gold digital subscription code, agreeing to recurring billing will give you an additional one month for free. If you turn off recurring billing before redeeming your next code, you can usually continue to take advantage of this bonus. (Don’t do this if you are redeeming three 1-year codes—the system will refuse to let you redeem the final code because it’ll put you over the limit.)
To verify you’ve turned off recurring billing, head to the Services & Subscriptions section of your account info. Under “Xbox Game Pass Ultimate,” you’ll see an expiration date for your subscription, and the option to the right will say “Turn on recurring billing.”
Microsoft Reward members with point balances of 30,000 or more should also check to see if the 12-month option for Xbox Live Gold exists for them. Nothing’s sweeter than a free way to max out a deal.
Before buying any digital subscription codes, incorporate any of the above freebies or bonuses you can obtain into your calculations.
Example: You need 17 months to max out. (You already have 16 months of Xbox Live Gold and 3 months of Xbox Game Pass active on your account.) As a Costco member who also has a surplus of Microsoft Reward points, you buy one 12-month code and then use the points to obtain a single 3-month code. You will then get two bonus months by choosing recurring billing when you redeem each code. The $1 Game Pass Ultimate trial will then tack on the final month needed to hit a total of 27.
Activate your Xbox Live Gold codes. Again, as your final reminder, if you have three 1-year subscription codes for Xbox Live, do not agreeto recurring billing in order to redeem your final code.
If you are using a patchwork of different codes, triple-check your math to be sure you know how many times (if any) you need to agree to recurring billing.
OOPS: Did you have three 1-year XBL Gold codes and accidentally make it impossible to redeem that final code? You can wait a month or two, then redeem code #3 and convert. Or you can wait to activate it after you upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate—you’ll be able to redeem it on a pro-rated basis to extend your Ultimate subscription.
You will have two screens to pass through. The first, shown at right, explains how the conversion works if you already have an active Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription. (Which you should, if you followed Step 2’s instructions.)
The second that follows will ask for billing information, in order to process the $1 charge for the one-month Game Pass Ultimate trial.
You should now see “Xbox Game Pass Ultimate” listed under Services and Subscriptions on your Microsoft account page. By default, your Game Pass Ultimate subscription will be set to recurring billing. We suggest you turn this off, lest you be taken by surprise when your subscription expires (especially if that’s three years from now). You can do so by clicking on “Manage” just to the right of the billing information.
Outside of that, you’re set to go. Happy gaming!
Editor’s note: This article originally published in August 2019 but has been since updated to keep it current. Recent updates includes new info on discounted Gold codes, plus news about possible product and price changes related to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass Ultimate. Our tutorial video was also added.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.