Why Xbox Game Pass Continues to Be the Best Value in Gaming

Take a trip back in time to February 28, 2017.  Phil Spencer and Xbox had just announced Xbox Game Pass. Nobody knew what to expect. Consumers and pundits alike were skeptical, some still are. But jump ahead four and a half years after the announcement and Game Pass has widely been dubbed the best bargain in gaming. But how did this rollercoaster ride Microsoft has been on, end up with them at the top of the industry? Let’s break it down.

The Initial Hook 

Leading up to the June 1st, 2017 launch, Xbox utilized actor Danny McBride in their marketing. It was a bold move, but a smart one, as the actor, although often controversial, was a well-known face and was about to star in the next Alien movie.

Advertisements in all forms highlighted Game Pass’ boldness. 100+ games for only $9.99. It seemed like the Netflix of gaming, and even though games had to be downloaded and not streamed, the comparison was not far off. The service was more akin to EA Access (now EA Play), but both would end up being more spot-on than first thought.

By January of 2018, only 6 months after launch, the service already had amassed millions of subscribers. And this was only the beginning, as Phil Spencer and company were on their way to saving an Xbox brand that had raised many questions in the public eye the first few years of the Xbox One era.

First-Party Games

After rousing success, Xbox announced that first-party titles would start coming to Game Pass on day one. This was huge for the console’s game development division as one of the many criticisms was the lack of Microsoft published titles. In 2018 this would change. Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, and Forza Horizon 4 all hit Game Pass on day one that year.

To add to the pot, Microsoft also announced that select [email protected] titles would be available to play at their launch.  While not all of these games were a success, many of them would not have reached the audience they did without Game Pass. So for Xbox, this was most certainly a win and the first of many for them.

Game Pass Ultimate

Soon Microsoft and Xbox’s strategy started to change. It was no longer about selling consoles, it was about selling subscriptions. In April of 2019, Game Pass Ultimate was announced, which bundled Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold for $14.99. Just a few months later, Game Pass for PC was added to the mix… without upping the cost of the service

Xbox already had success with the play anywhere program, allowing gamers to transfer progress between console and PC versions of a game. This just upped the ante as many of those games were all of a sudden available on both versions of Game Pass for one monthly price. Once again a huge win for Microsoft and the Xbox Brand.

The Next Generation

At the Game Awards in 2019, the Xbox Series X was revealed. It was time for the next generation of gaming.  This meant that Microsoft really had to step up their game. Microsoft was still losing the console war with Sony, despite the success of Game Pass. In 2020, Game Pass dropped the name Xbox for its branding and it was really time for the service to spread its wings.

Remember that comparison to Netflix? This is where that really comes into play. Project XCloud was announced in 2018. XCloud, Microsoft’s answer to compete with Google Stadia, allowed players to stream and play games on a mobile device. No longer was your Xbox library limited to your TV or PC.

In September 2020, Xcloud expanded to PC via browser and was added to both Game Pass Ultimate (on mobile devices and PC) and Game Pass PC (just on PC).  How much more did users have to pay for this service? $0. It was clear that with the launch of the Xbox Series X and S that Game Pass was the focus for Microsoft moving forward, and they were not done.

That same month Phil Spencer announced the acquisition of AAA game company Zenimax, the parent company of Bethesda (Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4). This did not just create ripple effects in the industry, but waves and the future seemed even brighter for Xbox.

A few months later the Xbox Series X and S were released and with it a new partner for Microsoft and Game Pass.  Once again, for no extra cost, both Game Pass Ultimate and Game Pass PC were reaping the benefits of being members. EA Play was added to the mix for Ultimate members on console at the launch of the Series X and S.

That December, the PC version was added for both Ultimate and Game Pass PC users. And let’s reiterate the fact that all of this was at no extra cost.

Game Pass in 2021

Fast Forward to E3 2021. After a great start to the year that included adding 20 Bethesda titles and bringing the former Playstation exclusive MLB the Show to Game Pass, Microsoft was poised to dazzle.

They ended up announcing over 30 games for the service including 27 on Day 1, including such anticipated titles as Microsoft Flight Sim Xbox Edition, Psychonauts 2, 12 Minutes, and the Bethesda exclusive Starfield, coming to Xbox and PC only, on November 11, 2022.

You may think that Xbox was done but just this month we have had more Game Pass news. Microsoft went on to upgrade the Xcloud servers with Xbox Series X and S consoles and removed the need for a browser for XCloud on PC, adding the service to the Xbox App. And at GamesCom last week they announced that Xcloud was in fact coming to Xbox Series X, S, and the Xbox One family of consoles.

The ramifications of this are immense. From this news, Xbox has revealed that multiple Xbox Series X exclusives will end up being playable on Xbox One, something nobody thought was possible. Not only that, there will no longer be a need to install certain games on your console. As long as your internet connection is stable you will be able to play most Game Pass games at the click of a button.

The Value of Game Pass Now

So what is the current state of Game Pass and why is it the best value in gaming? For just $14.99/ month you get access to over 300 games as well as a promise to have access to hundreds more in the future.

You can also get your first month for just $1!

With over a dozen studios under their umbrella, Microsoft has positioned itself to be the leader in gaming.

All of these studios’ games will launch on Game Pass day one. While many wonder why they are not focusing on consoles, the evidence above is crystal clear. Xbox wants to reach all gamers, no matter the platform. Game Pass is on track to do that. And with the announcement that Windows 11 is launching on October 5, with a strong focus being on gaming and the Xbox app, it adds a whole new layer to the term “next generation”.  Suffice to say, I am excited to see how Microsoft enhances the service in the years to come.

Via Windows Experience Blog, Xbox Wire

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