Some Xbox One Users Can't Play Games They Own Because of 'Game Pass'

Some Game Pass users lose access to games they actually own if they let their subscription expire.
March 15, 2018, 7:45pm
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft offers a relatively cheap subscription services on Xbox One that give players access hundreds of titles for a monthly cost. For $9.99 a month, Xbox One owners can use Game Pass to download old and new games. But a few users are finding out that if they let that subscription lapse, they can’t play their favorite games anymore, even if they own hard copies that should, theoretically, have nothing to do with Game Pass.

Reddit user RodCCL caused a stir on the site when he posted a thread titled “My [Game Pass] expired. Now I can't play my Halo 5 copy anymore.” He let his Game Pass subscription lapse two weeks ago and now, whenever he tries to boot his hard copy of Halo 5—a game Game Pass subscribers got for free—his Xbox tells him to renew his Game Pass subscription. After this story was first published, Microsoft told Motherboard that this was an "isolated incident."

“I've contacted Xbox Support [four] times and no one has helped me,” RodCCL wrote on Reddit. “I even did a factory reset and lost over 600gb in games but that did not solve the problem either. A guy even told me that ‘you can buy another month of [Game Pass] if you want.’ Well no, I'm not buying another month just to play a game I already own.”

He rebooted his console, redownloaded his profile, and downloaded the game twice. Nothing ha worked. “I've deleted the game at least three times,” he said. “If I put the disk on the console while being connected to [XBox Live], the installation-downloading process begins normally but then I can't open the game with any profile. I also tried moving the game to my external drive but did not work either. If I try to install the game while being offline, I get the error ‘0x8b050066.’”

As of this writing his thread has more than 1700 upvotes and it sat on the front page of /r/Xboxone for hours. “There is a big problem with game licences being removed,” TheOnlyTruthfulGamer said in a comment on Rod’s post. “I have lost 20 games and I do have Game Pass. Using Game Pass seems to be confusing the licences and removing them. They have even disappeared from my purchase list. Support won't do anything to help me….not buying digital with Microsoft anymore.”

Microsoft told us in an email that it's aware of the issue and trying to solve the problem. “We’re committed to ensuring customers have access to games they have acquired,” Microsoft said. “We’re aware of the claims and working to validate and resolve.” After this story was first published, Microsoft added: "We have confirmed that this is an isolated incident and are working directly with the affected user to resolve."

But RodCCL still can’t play Halo 5. “The problem still persists,” he told me over Reddit. “[Larry Hryb, Director of Programming for Xbox Live] has replied and I emailed him with more details. I also received an email from ‘Microsoft Quick Assistance’ some hours ago. The message says that my issue has been escalated and that I’ll be contacted by them very soon.”

Microsoft faced a consumer backlash in 2013 when it revealed the Xbox One. As originally conceived, the console would require users to connect to the internet once a day to play their games and face restrictions on used purchases. At the time, Microsoft said it wanted to push users towards a digital-only games marketplace but it backed away from the draconian DRM after backlash from fans.

Last week, an expired security certificate bricked the Oculus Rift and kept users from using the virtual reality headset. Increasingly, when you buy something—especially a digital product—you’re really just licensing the software. These days, even when you’ve got a physical disc for a video game, you don’t really own it in the way you think you do.

Update: This story has been updated with additional comment from Microsoft.