Microsoft is making some serious moves to get players invested in their platform in 2019, with talk of streaming services via Project XCloud, the announcement of Halo returning to PC with the Master Chief Collection, while also adding Halo Reach later this year, and the acquisition of some really exciting studios joining the portfolio at Xbox. But since its inception in 2017, Xbox Game Pass has made waves with its tremendous value, giving players access to over 100 titles from both first and third parties, with original Xbox, 360 and Xbox One games and every single exclusive title being available day one for players who subscribe to the service, and it’s only improving month after month. Let’s look at why Xbox Game Pass is an absolute bargain, why you should totally invest in it, and why this service will only get better over time, leading into the next generation.
Microsoft has done a lot of work to make sure Game Pass is constantly being updated, with more games added each month. Similarly to, say, a Netflix subscription, gamers are being offered new experiences to keep players on the platform and increase the value proposition for subscribers. In March, we saw 4 games added, and they’re pretty substantial titles. Just Cause 4 only released in 2018 and it’s been added to the library, and now players have the opportunity to play this as well as its predecessor, Just Cause 3. Fallout 4 joins its predecessor, Fallout 3 in the library, and Lego Batman 2 and F1 2018 round out March’s offerings. Even more excitingly, Game Awards GOTY nominee Monster Hunter World has just been added to the Game Pass library, joined by Arkane Studios’ Prey. Microsoft must be working hard behind the scenes to get these games to the service, and similarly, games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider which also released last year gives players a huge range of essentially brand new games to sink their teeth into, and in the case of Tomb Raider rounds off the entire trilogy available now on Microsoft’s service. Mortal Kombat X lets players jump into the MK world just in time for the recent release of Mortal Kombat 11 in April and moves like this will probably get more players keen for the latest titles set to come out in the near future. It’s a win-win for both Xbox and Netherrealm Studios.
Same Day Release
When Microsoft announced that Game Pass would include all first-party titles on their first day of release, I’m sure many looked at this as a bad business move for Xbox. But pro-consumer practices like this is something that Microsoft is absolutely nailing. Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, Forza, Crackdown, and the upcoming Gears 5, Halo Infinite, Ori & The Will of the Wisps, and future first party titles that have yet to be announced, will all be available day one, and this is amazing value for consumers. It puts these games in more people’s hands and hopefully creates long term fans of these series, and for Microsoft, this can only mean good things. Sales of expansions and DLC, more streamers playing these games on Mixer and Twitch, and more eyes on their products mean not only to players get a lot out of the platform, but in the end, so do Microsoft. In a climate of excessive micro-transactions and anti-consumer practices, Game Pass stands out as a great place for players to go to get ridiculously good value for money and get to try out games that they may have never given the time of day. I personally have played a bunch of indie games that I probably never would’ve played if it wasn’t for them being available on Game Pass, and I have others installed and ready to go when I get time to tackle my backlog of games. This, you would assume, is also good for independent developers who, although they aren’t getting a typical sale through the Xbox store, maybe getting significantly more players consuming their product and becoming fans of the game, and potentially become long-term fans of the studio.
Microsoft has worked hard with their ID@Xbox titles to bring high-quality independent games to the forefront of the Xbox Store, with some really cool games in this bracket being available through Game Pass subscription. Below and Ashen were pretty big releases last December, and although Below failed to live up to the expectations of a title that had been in development for near on 6 years, Ashen managed to be a fairly well received success, and although the Metacritic score of 78 isn’t world-changing, it did manage to earn itself a 90 from Game Spot and a solid 80 from Game Informer. This game made it into the lounge rooms of a lot of players though, and it was literally front and center of the Xbox Store page for a number of weeks. Soon Xbox Game Pass will include, day and date of release, another really funky looking indie title, Void Bastards, from Blue Manchu. This colorful first-person strategy title takes inspiration from immersive sims of the past including BioShock and System Shock 2, and its gorgeous cartoon art style and 12-15 hour campaign looks set to be an absolute gem when it releases on Xbox Game Pass.
The Future is Digital
With Phil Spencer at its head, Microsoft Studios, and the Xbox brand has been putting in some serious work to get players into the Xbox ecosystem. After the massive announcements from 2018 of some exciting studios joining the lineup of first parties including Ninja Theory, Playground, Obsidian, and InXile, as well as the newly formed Initiative, the future is looking very bright for Xbox exclusives. This, coupled with Microsoft’s intentions to put games in more and more people’s hands through streaming services, the all-digital Xbox One S, and eventually the successor to the Xbox One generation, it is clear that Xbox Game Pass will continue to be a highly promoted service. With the All Digital Xbox One S now announced, I can imagine that offering the console, bundled with 6 or 12 months of Game Pass – or even the newly announced Game Pass Ultimate, which bundles Gold and Game Pass together for one low price – would do wonders to draw new players onto the platform. Essentially if you purchased this as a bundle, you would barely need to shell out a dollar for months and have an almost endless supply of games to choose from. First party title Gears 5 will be releasing this year, we know that for sure, as well as the highly anticipated Ori & The Will of the Wisps, and that in itself bodes well for Game Pass subscribers and potential customers of a disc-less Xbox.
E3 on the Horizon
E3 will be a very interesting time for Microsoft to really show its stuff, especially without Sony and EA attending, and some more exciting announcements could be just on the horizon. We can expect as always that Xbox’s press conference will be the place to be for the third-party world premiere announcements – similarly to Cyberpunk, Devil May Cry 5, Anthem and Dying Light 2 from previous events – but more excitingly Phil Spencer and his team will be excited to announce new first party games, and talk about the future of the Xbox brand, with Game Pass set to be front and center. It’s a good time to be a gamer.
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