7 years later, Xbox figures out how to make always-online gaming work

Today’s Xbox Game Pass Android reveal is welcome news to gamers in search of getting the most out of a monthly subscription. Amazingly, Microsoft has just pulled off something they tried and failed to do with the Xbox One: create an always-online gaming service, largely through the offerings of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate & Project xCloud on the Xbox Series X and elsewhere.

If you’re a younger gamer, you might not recall the controversy surrounding the launch of the Xbox One. Way back in 2013, rumors floated around that the Xbox One (then code-named Durango) would require a constant Internet connection. Combine that with rumors that the console wouldn’t have a disc drive and fans were furious.

It seems silly today, but the idea of an always-online connection was a poison pill. It’s still tricky business, but Microsoft has just revealed how it can make it work with the Xbox Game Pass Android reveal.

Why ‘Always-Online’ Didn’t Work in 2013

Xbox Game Pass Android store sideways

If you’re reading this article right today in 2020, I would wager that you play (or have played) a game that requires an internet connection. It may be a “soft” requirement due to constant software updates or it may be a “hard” requirement for an online multiplayer game.

In 2013, broadband was still growing. Cable internet and DSL made it more affordable and more available across the United States and around the world, but widespread application of the tech was still relatively young. Now, you can get a decent broadband internet connection pretty much anywhere in the Western world (although speeds will still vary to a degree).

There was also the issue of storage space. The Xbox 360 Elite — the best version of that console — had a 120 GB hard drive. The Xbox One launched with more than four times the space, and the Xbox Series X will launch with nearly ten times the space and the ability to easily expand your storage.

In short, the tech was there but consumers weren’t quite sold on it just yet. Although the Xbox One didn’t launch with that rumored always-online requirement, it did pave the way for a connected future — and this time around, we’re getting a much better deal.

Enter the Xbox Game Pass Android announcement

Xbox Game Pass Android accessories

The Xbox Game Pass Android announcement made earlier today would have seemed like a fantasy to gamers in 2013: play over 100 Xbox Games on your Android phone as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Starting on September 15, 2020, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members will gain access to these titles as part of their subscription in 22 markets around the world.

Microsoft has smartly made this a soft launch of sorts; some countries and regions aren’t going to get access to this tech for some time. This is a big change in the way Microsoft does gaming and it seems keen on getting it right.

Adding to their commitment to the Xbox Game Pass Android announcement is the reveal of a slew of accessories for making mobile gaming easy. It may seem like Microsoft is going all-in on Project xCloud, but this is just one part of a greater plan that has finally accomplished what they wanted to do back in 2013.

The secret to making always-online work

Xbox Game Pass Android three games

It took most of a console lifecycle, but Microsoft has finally figured out the secret to making an always-online requirement work: value. Just look at what you get with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription:

  • Access to over 100 high-quality games for console, PC, and Android mobile devices
  • New games added all the time
  • Xbox Game Studio titles the same day as release
  • Member discounts and deals
  • Exclusive free perks including in-game content and partner offers
  • Play games on your mobile phone and tablet from the cloud (Beta)
  • Xbox Live Gold multiplayer
  • Deals with Gold
  • Games With Gold

All for $14.99 a month. Add to that the likely Xbox All Access payment plan for Microsoft’s next-gen console and you have what amounts to a very solid value proposition.

Imagine, if you will, that we were back in 2013 once more and I told you that you could get everything listed above for fifteen bucks a month, the only caveat being that you’d need an Internet connection. That’s the cost of your subscription to MMOs like World of Warcraft or Everquest and with much more content to play.

That’s not what we got, though. Instead, Microsoft’s 2013 always-online plans had way more downsides than upsides. Gamers were right to reject it back then and what we have today is a totally different (and much better) value proposition.

The Xbox Game Pass Android announcement just makes a good deal even greater. It might just be worth it for the skeptics to buy an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription and get on board what will likely be one of the best deals in gaming for a long time to come.