I’ve been an Xbox fan for a lot of years. I play games on all of the major consoles, but I’ve had a soft spot for the Microsoft box since I first played Halo in my brother’s basement back in 2001. As much as I’ve loved it though, it would be silly not to admit that the life of the Xbox One has been a rocky one. Confusing messaging and poor design choices led to a rough launch that they’ve been trying to recover from ever since. Putting Phil Spencer in charge has absolutely turned things in the right direction, but they’ve still never managed to catch up with the competition when it comes to hardware sales, settling into 3rd place in the three way console race.
They’ve made some fantastic moves in recent years like focusing on Backwards Compatibility and introducing their Play Anywhere program, but they’ve still faced criticism for not having enough exclusive titles or having the big “must play” games. That’s not to say that the Xbox doesn’t have some great exclusives (they absolutely do) but they just haven’t managed to reach the level of critical and commercial success that the tent-pole games from their competitors have garnered.
This year though something interesting has happened, they’ve managed to find success not by necessarily having the best games available or the most exclusive titles, but by offering a slew of great games at an unbelievable value. All of a sudden Xbox Game Pass has become the best value in all of gaming and it’s absolutely the biggest reason to own an Xbox.
When it was first introduced in 2017, Game Pass was billed as the ‘Netflix of Gaming’, offering a selection of 1st and 3rd party games for players to download at a low, monthly price. It had a nice selection of older titles and was a great option for those who didn’t necessarily need to play the latest games, but wanted a good selection of games for a low price. As good as this was, it’s really been the way in which the service has evolved in the years since that has made it stand out and become a must for any Xbox owner.
In early 2018 Microsoft announced that all 1st party Xbox titles would become available on Game Pass the same day that they became available at retail, starting with the highly anticipated Sea of Thieves. The promise of being able to play all of their upcoming 1st party titles like State of Decay 2, Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5 for one low price was a game changer in the console space, and it was only the beginning of the big moves they’d be making with Game Pass.
One of the best things about Xbox Game Pass has been the recent push to have a number of ID@Xbox titles launch on the service day one. These are independent games that maybe could have slipped under your radar, but thanks to Game Pass you can discover them with zero risk. Games like Blair Witch, Creature in the Well, Void Bastards, and one of our personal favorite games in recent years, Outer Wilds. Between the 1st party and ID@Xbox games, there have been plenty of new games to check out this year. They’ve also recently introduced Xbox Game Pass for PC which let’s PC games get in on the value and is available at no extra cost for Game Pass members.
The huge amount of games available to you for only $10 per month ($15 if you bundle with Xbox Gold as part of Game Pass Ultimate) means that it’s entirely feasible to be an Xbox owner and never have to spend a dime on a game other than your Game Pass membership. In the next week alone we have two more highly anticpated games launching on the service with The Outer Worlds and Afterparty. All of these new titles plus the steady stream of previously released games (including Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles) add up to something that I would argue is reason enough to own an Xbox One.
The value of Xbox Game Pass seems somewhat too good to be true. How can they sustain such a model and how are developers making money if they’re offering their games for “free” on Game Pass? While it’s hard to know what happens in every case, there have been an increasing number of publishers, including Mike Rose from No More Robots, who have stated that having their games on Game Pass actually leads to a huge boost in sales, which seems like a win/win for both developers and players.
It’s becoming clear that moving forward Xbox Game Pass is going to be a huge focus for Microsoft. At E3 and throughout much of the promotional push for Gears 5, they’ve been advertising their games as being “Available on Game Pass” as opposed to being “Available on Xbox One”, which I would take to mean that the service is going to be a big part of their plans when their next generation console launches next Holiday season. And if Phil Spencer has his way, you may be seeing Game Pass available on other devices as well in the near future.
Xbox has had a bit of a rough time this console generation, but I think they’ve found something pretty revolutionary with Game Pass that I think will be able to carry them into the future. If what’s happening to the music and television industry is any indication, subscription services are the wave of the future when it comes to how people get their entertainment, and Xbox is primed and ready to take full advantage of it.