Like many during this console generation, I spent most of my gaming time on my PS4 over my Xbox One. I’ve rarely found the system dominating my playtime aside from the occasional console exclusive like Sunset Overdrive or Halo Wars 2. However, when Forza Horizon 4 piqued my interest, I figured I’d subscribe to Xbox Game Pass for a month, dump a ton of hours into it, and then cancel my subscription. But instead of going back to being a dormant console, Forza Horizon 4 instead acted as my “gateway drug” to Xbox Game Pass and I was hooked. It’s been several months since I signed up, and I don’t see myself canceling my subscription any time in 2019.
An incredible value
This underlines how much of a potential long-term game changer Microsoft’s subscription service actually is. At the end of the day, I’m just one consumer, but if it can convert someone that has a level 42 PlayStation Network account to switch ecosystems, then it’s possible to convert nearly anyone. If you truly care about games, and Microsoft winds up delivering quality exclusives at a semi-regular pace, then it’s a no-brainer service to use if you already have an Xbox One.
At $9.99, players don’t have to play much on Xbox Game Pass to justify its price of admission, but I was shocked at just how great the game library is. Even with the scant number of actual exclusives, you still save money by subscribing rather than picking up a year’s worth of first-party titles that Microsoft puts out. This is truly the service’s greatest perk and it’s one that Sony hasn’t matched with PlayStation Now (yet, at least).
Beyond getting new first-party titles on release day, Xbox Game Pass also provides a great array of titles. The selections have been quite brilliant, as many multiplayer titles have been added such as Laser League, PUBG, and Payday 2. This makes getting into games with friends a far simpler task than it ever was before. It can be a pain convincing a friend to fork over $60 just so you can play together a few times, but paying less than $10 to get a whole catalog of titles? It’s a much easier sell and both players can try out new titles together.
While there are similar services, most notably Electronic Arts’ EA Access and Sony’s PlayStation Now, none of them offer the publisher’s biggest releases of the year with the subscription at no added cost. Obviously this isn’t a problem in the case of Sony, as God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man don’t need any help selling to a wide audience, but it’s a great way for Microsoft to get more players back into their exclusives and remind them why they purchased an Xbox One in the first place.
These other services also run into issues not present in Game Pass. PS Now’s download restrictions limit the library and streaming is not ideal. EA Access only has EA games. Xbox Game Pass has both a wider library and faster, locally downloaded games.
Molding the future of gaming
While the traditional gaming sales model will stay relevant for the foreseeable future, Xbox Games Pass is setting an important precedent. As with movies and music before them, it won’t be shocking to see gaming continue to go down a digital route that relies on subscription services rather than individual purchases. It can certainly get messy (imagine if every publisher had its own subscription), but if a massive company like Microsoft can lay down a solid groundwork then we could be on the way to having gaming’s Netflix equivalent or something better.
But it also reveals how much Microsoft’s direction has changed over the course of the Xbox One’s lifespan in the short term. The company went from having an incredibly negative stigma surrounding its every move to making some major strides by providing great value to its players. Microsoft still has a ton of work to do if it wants to once again outdo PlayStation in terms of console sales, but the company is smartly playing the long game rather than fretting over a few years of lesser sales.
What’s clear is that Xbox Games Pass has the potential to be a game changer. Not just for Microsoft’s home consoles, but for gaming as a whole, and this is all due to how much value the service manages to have. As everyone knows, gaming can be an incredibly expensive hobby, so when the overhead gets dropped to just a few bucks a month that can make a huge difference. Even the most budget-conscious gamer can have a library that they will struggle to catch up with, and that’s awesome to see.
It isn’t going to change the industry overnight, but for now, the Xbox Game Pass value has converted one of potentially many PlayStation gamers over to their ecosystem. That’s a good sign and a start.