In revealing a massive update to the Xbox Game Pass subscription service that it launched last year, Microsoft may trigger changes in the way we buy games forever. Besides unlocking a game library with hundreds of titles, Xbox Game Pass will also get you every exclusive Xbox One game the day that it launches.
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer revealed the massive change to Xbox Game Pass in a post on Xbox Wire today, and it definitely caught me off guard. I’ve always thought of Xbox Game Pass as a not so clever attempt by Microsoft to offer something like EA Access or a PlayStation Now. It’s now a certified alternative to buying new games too.
Beginning with Sea of Thieves, Xbox Game Pass will offer every new Xbox exclusive game the day that it launches. Instead of pre-ordering Crackdown 3 you can buy a subscription to Game Pass and know that you will get to play it just like everyone else. Microsoft isn’t offering just a few of its exclusive games in this manner either. According to Spencer, “future unannounced games from Microsoft Studios including new iterations of our biggest franchises such as Halo, Forza and Gears of War” will come to Game Pass the day they launch.
So how does this change how you play games? At $9.99, Xbox Game Pass was already a cheap way to instantly get a solid games library without resorting to Game Stop’s used disc bins. Now the service is good enough to skip buying Microsoft’s games too. Why spend $60 on the next Halo when you can get a six month subscription to Xbox Game Pass and unlock a new Halo and dozens of other titles before and after the next Halo’s release?
Of course, this also open’s a whole new box of issues. Your access to all Xbox Game Pass titles disappears when you stop paying for it, though you do get to keep your game saves. From a high level, Game Pass is now the Netflix of video games and Xbox exclusives are Netflix Originals. Netflix is great as long as you don’t cancel. The moment you do, you realize just how garbage your own content library has become. Theoretically, the same thing could happen to longtime Xbox Game Pass users. It could condition them to stay subscribed as if it’s a monthly utility payment instead. If that happens, Microsoft more than makes up for the loss of a single game purchase.
Kudos to Microsoft on this one. I’m not yet sold on the idea, but I haven’t played my copy of Halo 5 since I finished it the first time. Given the choice between one game they own forever and tons of new and old titles they can play for just $9.99, casual gamers may jump on this.