Xbox Game Pass thoughts

All the Gears Of War you can eat!

Xbox Game Pass
AUD$10.95 per month (14-day free trial available)
Xbox One only

Launched in June 2017, Xbox Game Pass is basically a Netflix for the Xbox One. You pay a flat subscription fee and can download and play whatever you want from the library. Microsoft’s recent announcement that their own titles would be added to Game Pass on launch day only makes the comparison to Netflix even more apt.

And… well, it just works. With a valid subscription the Game Pass titles show up in the Xbox One store with an “Install” option; you just download them and install them to the hard drive, and they’re ready to play after that. There is also a “Buy” option so that you can keep the game after you end your subscription for whatever reason, although Game Pass subscribers get discounts (“up to 20% on game purchases and 10% on all related add-ons”). Games aren’t deleted from your hard drive if you cancel your subscription, presumably in case you decide- or can be persuaded- to buy the game outright.

As of February 2018 there are 155 titles in the library, although that isn’t necessarily as impressive as it sounds; more than half (80/155) of these titles were originally released for the Xbox 360, making them at least 5 years old, and many of those were Xbox Live Arcade titles released under $20 when they first came out. There are a few in the library that were Xbox 360 launch titles, making them more than 12 years old at the time of writing (including Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Elements of Power), and a few titles like Samurai Shodown II and Garou: Mark of the Wolves are Neo-Geo emulations, making them up to 25 years old. There are even some games that are free-to-play on mobile phones that seem to be there to pad out the library (like Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey). I’ve always had a soft spot for the Samurai Shodown series, so you might find there are still some gems in there depending on your tastes.

Screenshot from Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey on Xbox One.
I shall play “Qeeeeeeieeeeeei” on a triple word score.

There are also some ‘AAA’ releases to sink your teeth into. The most recent NBA 2K title isn’t there, but NBA 2K17 is (as is NBA Playgrounds). Mass Effect and Resident Evil 6 are there, as are all six Gears of War titles (if you count Gears 1 and Gears: Ultimate Edition as separate games) and all three Bioshock games. Interestingly only one main Halo title is there (Halo 5: Guardians) although some side entries from the canon are included (Halo Wars 2 and Spartan Assault).

Like Netflix, Microsoft has also announced that new releases from Microsoft Studios will be added to the service on the same day they are released in stores; the first big release along these lines is Rare’s long-awaited Sea of Thieves in March. But some in-house Microsoft Studios releases, and even some entire franchises aren’t represented at all on the service- there are no Forza Motorsport games at all, for example, although GRID 2 is there if you want to get your drive on.

Probably the only negative is a fairly cynical assumption that people will sign up and then forget to cancel, or leave their subscription ongoing ‘in case’ something good comes up; much like people just leave their Netflix or Stan subscriptions running and don’t worry about the $10 a month, Microsoft would really like to just get $11 a month from you for nothing while you wait for Crackdown 3 to appear. Game Pass also doesn’t include Xbox Live, so no multiplayer features are available; that’s still an additional AUD$79.95 per year.

But it does work as advertised, and if there’s something on the service you will happily spend $10.95 on rather than buying it (and if your broadband will support you downloading 50Gb-and-up Xbox One releases), you might find it to be particularly good value. If you want to check it out the full library is listed on the Xbox website, so you can see what you’re getting before you sign up.