Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s plan to regain some of their lost (or never captured) player-base, has been out for a few weeks now, and it has seen moderate success. Touted by some as a retail killer, the program gives Xbox One owners access to over 100 games for the manageable cost of $10 a month. Astute gamers will recognize that this is 1/6th of the cost of buying one of those games brand new. This feels like a steal considering any Xbox exclusive will be available on release day for anyone subscribed to the program. Sea of Thieves especially has seen success in large part thanks to Xbox Game Pass. With more big games coming from Xbox in the future, I wouldn’t blame you for wondering if now is a good time to try out this new service. Let’s go into the particulars.
The Cost of Xbox Game Pass:
I think the primary reason people are hesitant to subscribe is they aren’t sure they’ll get their money’s worth out of the service. Sure, for $10 a month you get access to a few of Microsoft’s most recent hits, but what about after that? There’s only so much that can be done in Sea of Thieves until you’re ready for something new.
I like to look at this in investment terms. I originally planned on spending $60 on Sea of Thieves when it came out. However, I quickly charted a new course (sailing pun!) once I saw it would be featured on Game Pass. So, if I looked at this in terms of the capital I was originally going to spend ($60), it makes much more sense to use the $10 a month on six months worth of Game Pass and see if I enjoyed the game as much as I hoped. Chances are I wouldn’t play Sea of Thieves for six months anyway. I could have also purchased the game at its $60 retail value and returned it if I did not like it, however my local GameStop would have only given me around $40 for it. In that case, I would have lost $20 on my investment. On Xbox Game Pass, if I subscribe only to play Sea of Thieves and find out I do not like it, I could cancel my subscription to the service that same month (which you are free to do at anytime). In this later scenario I would have only lost $10 of my investment compared to the $20 lost when trading it back in. If that return is going into the purchase of my next game, then the GameStop example would cause me to spend an extra $20 on my next purchase (due to loosing that $20 on the trade-in, leaving me now with the $40 from my original purchase of $60) as opposed to spending an extra $10 after playing Sea of Thieves on Xbox Game Pass. The difference of $10 in these two examples might not sound that major, but it’s worth considering that the Game Pass example gives you 5/6th of your purchase back, where the trade-in gives you 2/3rds (4/6th) of it. If you purchase a lot of games, like I do, then that extra $10 in return can make the difference!
This does not account for the fact that Xbox Game Pass gives you access to more than just Sea of Thieves. There are a handful of other great games worth playing. If you picked up the service for Sea of Thieves and discovered you didn’t like it (or even if you did), you can always use that subscription to play any of the other Xbox games in the program. I, for example, played Rise of the Tomb Raider immediately after moving on from Sea of Thieves. This now puts the value of games I have played on Game Pass at $90 (because Rise of the Tomb Raider is $30, as of time of writing), for the original investment of $10 – which isn’t bad at all. If I owned stock that was originally purchased for $10 that is now sitting at $90 I would be over the moon with excitement.
For you, who might still be deciding if Xbox Game Pass is worth the $10 a month, I would check out the games that they have to see if there are a few which you would like to play. If you find a couple of games you think you would enjoy, I’d recommend picking up Game Pass. You’ll definitely be receiving more value than what you are spending. Once you’ve played everything you’re interested in, you can drop the subscription until enough new games are added to the library that you are interested in. When/If that becomes the case, you can resubscribe to the service and play through those titles. Keep in mind that you can cancel your subscription to Game Pass at any time, with no fee to do so.
Games Available (So Far):
I’ve talked already about Sea of Thieves and Rise of the Tomb Raider, but let’s detail a few more notable games that you have access to with Xbox Game Pass.
- Super Lucky’s Tale
- Halo Wars (1 and 2)
- Halo 5
- Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Gears of War 4
- Dead Rising 3
- Darksiders (1 and 2)
- Dead Island
- Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons
- Saints Row IV
- State of Decay
This list isn’t even close to all of the games that are available. While most people who pick up the service will spend the majority of their times with these games, there are little gems in there such as Terraria and Fable III. So if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, there are a ton of games worth your attention. You can sift through the whole list here.
If you find a few games here that you have wanted to play, or even look interesting, I’d recommend coughing up that $10 to try them. The value is clearly there. If you lean on the other end of that spectrum and none of these games look remotely fun, there is nothing I can say that will sell you on Xbox Game Pass.
Downloading versus Streaming Games:
Another thing worth a light mentioning is that games coming from Xbox Game Pass are available for download. Compare this to Sony’s PlayStation Now where you have a library of games, but must stream them to play. Streaming games can be problematic if you live somewhere with slow internet or poor coverage. This can negatively impact frame-rate, load times, and game performance which all ultimately affecting our gaming experience. If you live in an areas where the internet is problematic, it will likely take you the extra time to download a game coming from Game Pass, but (as long is it’s not dependent on a constant online connection) once it’s downloaded you can play it without issue.
It’s worth also keeping in mind that PlayStation Now costs $19.99 a month, whereas Xbox Game Pass costs $9.99. The cost of PlayStation Now can be justified by the shear amount of great games they have (because Sony is undoubtedly leading the industry in exclusive games), but the requirement to stream the games is what forces my attention elsewhere. If Sony ever changed to a download-based system, Game Pass would definitely have a hard time competing with it.
The Future of Xbox Game Pass:
My initial objection to trying the service was “Yeah, it would be great for the first month or two, but what about after that?” What is the lasting value of Game Pass? Is there a reason to keep paying $10 a month for the foreseeable future?
While that future looks bright, it all depends on if Microsoft holds true to their commitment that new games will be added to Game Pass every month. I tend to be a bit of a Microsoft pessimist on certain topics, but when they said they would be adding more Backwards Compatible games to the Xbox One they delivered. I’d bet their commitment to expanding the Game Pass library will be met with similar effort. So I don’t feel like I’m wrongly putting my trust in them on this one.
The biggest demerit of Microsoft in recent years is that they haven’t been focused on developing mind-blowing exclusives. Utilizing the Game Pass formula, maybe this will allow them to develop non-AAA games designed to fit into the low monthly payment model. I also see this being a great avenue for Microsoft to incorporate their ID@Xbox and independent game developer relations a little bit more. Now they will have a great platform to bring smaller budget games to a console that it struggling for great titles to play.
I am also feeling optimistic since we have games like State of Decay II and Crackdown 3 making their way to Game Pass. These are both games I’m eager to play, but am not planning on spending $60 on – making them perfect Game Pass additions. There is no doubt that new games will be coming to the Xbox One that are going to find their way to Game Pass, and I’m sure several will be reveled during Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference this year.
Perhaps Xbox Game Pass will be what helps Microsoft get back to the front of the pack. They have clearly thought long-term with the program, and if they can delivery then they might give other services a run for their money. Whether or not Game Pass is worth you money is up to you, but if you’re even slightly on the fence and thinking about purchasing it, I’d tell you to give it a shot.