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Subscription services are the in thing right now. With an increasing number of products solely available through subscription based platforms, it’s no surprise to see Microsoft join in via its Xbox Game Pass. But what is it, and do you really need it? We dig through the fine print so you don’t have to.
Launched in June 2017, the Xbox Game Pass is easily summed up as “Netflix for Xbox One games”. For $10 a month, you get access to a catalog of full games from a range of publishers, each available to download and play. It sounds a lot like EA Access which offers a similar service, exclusively for EA titles, but the big difference here is that the Xbox Game Pass isn’t just about Microsoft’s stable of titles—they’ve made deals with multiple publishers. Also, unlike Sony’s Playstation Now service, you’re downloading full titles to your Xbox One’s hard drive rather than streaming them.
Surprisingly, you don’t need an Xbox Live Gold membership to use Xbox Game Pass, which makes it a relatively inexpensive way of accessing a growing back catalog of titles. It’s easy to sign up for, easy to opt out of, and there’s frequent specials that bring the cost down. In recent months, there have been stackable offers on the Xbox Dashboard bringing the price down as low as $1 per month.
Reasonable prices are one thing and discounts are even better, but it’s all for nothing if the game selection is lackluster. Xbox Game Pass current has a little bit of everything, with more to come. Some of the best titles in the current roster are from Microsoft but as we mentioned above they’ve secured deals with other publishers like Namco, Capcom, WB Games, 2K Games, and Sega, so there’s plenty of choices. Titles such as Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Dead Rising 3, and Rise of the Tomb Raider stand out as top-tier picks but there’s plenty of variety.
Indie darlings like Oxenfree, The Swapper, and The Final Station are available via the Pass’s collaboration with Microsoft’s ID@Xbox indie program, while remasters such as Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition and the Resident Evil series offer some fun insights into memorable franchises from the recent past.
Talking of historical titles, the Xbox Game Pass goes nuts for Xbox 360 titles. All the Xbox 360 Gears of War titles, along with the BioShock series, Fable Anniversary, and Banjo Kazooie titles are available.
On a monthly basis, new games are added while some older titles are removed. Much like Netflix, you’ll want to keep an eye on what’s going on but there’s generally strong content being added right now.
Much of this is driven by Microsoft’s recent announcement to add all of its forthcoming first-party titles to the service on the day of its retail release. Multiplayer focused pirate-themed title, Sea of Thieves, will be the first new title to appear on the service on March 20. Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 will also be added upon launch with release dates not yet confirmed. The trend is set to continue with the likes of new Halo and Gears of War titles also likely to join the service in the future.
Well, there’s the obvious part—you get a lot of games for your money. Over 100 games are available through the service, even though they’re not all the newest of titles. In terms of value for money, the Xbox Game Pass is a bit of a no brainer of a decision.
The promise of new first party titles appearing on launch day is a big one too. Rather than paying $60 for a title that will depreciate rapidly, you can simply subscribe for $10 and get a month’s worth of play from that title with more available on the side. There’s no limit on how many games you download and install, other than the amount you can fit onto your console.
You don’t even have to be constantly online to play the game. Once downloaded, you can play the game offline for 30 days before needing to reconnect to verify you still have an active subscription.
Additionally, if you decide to purchase a game from the catalogue, you get it at a 20% discount from the regular price. Why would you purchase a title available on the Xbox Game Pass? Many games you’ll play through and likely not need to keep around (unless you’re buying a copy for nostalgia purposes, you don’t really need permanent access to Bioshock for example). If you get hooked on a good multiplayer game, however, you might find you want to keep playing it with your buddies if it gets pulled from the Game Pass roster. Considering the value you get out of playing it as part of the Game Pass program and then the discount if you wish to own a copy, it’s a pretty solid savings.
Like with any subscription service, mileage will vary. Certain groups of users will benefit more than others.
The biggest group to gain from subscribing is new Xbox owners. That’s presumably why the Xbox One X comes bundled with a free month’s subscription to the service. If you’ve never owned an Xbox One before, you’ll profit substantially from the many “free” games you can play. It’s even better if you also didn’t own an Xbox 360, as the number new-to-you games is substantially larger. There’s a reasonable mix in there too, with games suitable for family players as well as adult gamers.
It’s also great if you don’t entirely know what kind of games appeal to you. Your only restriction is the speed of your internet connection and any data caps imposed on you. Otherwise, if you really wanted to, you could download every game on the service, providing you’ve got the hard drive space. If you want to treat the games available as a form of extended demo service, you can. Want to hop on to a game because all your friends are playing it and you want to join in? It’s perfect for that too.
There’s also the Xbox “power users”—gamers who enjoy boosting their gamerscores (a composite score made up of all their in-game achievements) by playing multiple games to completion. Sure, it’s an arbitrary number but it’s a trend that’s grown over the past 10 years with other gaming outlets utilizing similar services, like Sony’s Trophy system and Steam’s Achievements. The allure of earning additional points can be strong among many players so an inexpensive way to play certain titles for “easy” points is a tempting one. In this respect, the Xbox Game Pass replaces the traditional physical rental services of years past rather perfectly.
There is one group that should probably skip the Game Pass experience though. If you’re stuck with low internet speeds or a tight data cap though, the Xbox Game Pass is a service you should save for a later happier date when you’ve got more bandwidth—the service is just too reliant on customers having speedy and open internet access. Barring that situation, it’s tough to see why you wouldn’t at least try a month or two of the service. For the price of a single $60 new release game you could enjoy 6 months of Xbox Game Pass and play dozens upon dozens of games instead.
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