Microsoft has announced it is expanding Xbox Game Pass and will start releasing first-party Xbox One exclusives through the subscription service. Xbox Game Pass was launched last year and offers players unlimited download access to more than 100 Xbox One games for a monthly cost. Now it seems the service will be a cornerstone of Xbox's distribution plans going forward.

The first major game to be released on Xbox Game Pass the same day as its regular release will be Sea of Thieves, the much-anticipated open-world pirate game exclusive for Xbox One and PC. When it becomes available for purchase in a traditional fashion on March 20, Game Pass subscribers will get access on Xbox One. While they don't have set release dates yet, both State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3 were mentioned as other Xbox One exclusives that will be coming to Xbox Game Pass at release. All games will still be available for purchase normally.

In the announcement, Xbox boss Phil Spencer also dropped some hints that the console's biggest franchises will be popping up on the subscription service too. "Future unannounced games from Microsoft Studios including new iterations of our biggest Xbox One exclusive franchises such as Halo, Forza, and Gears of War, [will be available] on the same day they launch," he said. While details about a possible Halo 6 are slim and no new Forza or Gears of War games have been officially announced, it gives fans hope that something big is coming for each in the future.

Microsoft has also announced a new subscription offer for Xbox Game Pass. GameStop and other retailers will start offering six-month Xbox Game Pass subscription cards, starting March 20. The cards will cost $60 (matching Game Pass's existing fee of $10/month), but will mean you don't need a credit card to subscribe.

"We've only scratched the surface of the opportunity this new model brings to the industry and what we can deliver to our fans. We firmly believe Xbox Game Pass will be a catalyst to create new opportunities for game developers and publishers to innovate in the way games are developed and delivered, leading to entirely new ways to play," said Spencer.

Source: GameSpot