The video game world lurches slowly towards subscription services, and it takes a major step soon. Microsoft just announced that it will be launching its Xbox Game Pass on June 1, but Xbox Live Gold subscribers can get started with a 14-day free trial today, meaning that anyone planning to subscribe can pretty much roll right into full release.
Xbox Game Pass launches early access today.The game pass will cost $9.99 a month for access to more than 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games. There’s a full list over on the Game Pass website, but the offerings run the gamut from blockbusters like the Bioshock and Gears of War series to mid-tier games and a wide selection of smaller titles. Titles will rotate monthly, but just what’s available here would take even the more intrepid player a while to work through.
Xbox Game Pass sacrifices convenience for reliability, relying on full game downloads rather than the streaming options favored by chief competitor Sony and other services. Having tried some streaming services, this seems like the right move for the moment: network problems both local and server-side can hamper your gaming experiences, and streaming still doesn’t feel like it’s quite there as far as a primary gaming experience goes.
I still tend to think that streaming will wind up the dominant way of playing and distributing games withing 10 years or so, but the current model of either downloading a game or buying it on a disc is sticking around for a while. Microsoft is sticking with the tried and true for this one.
With that in mind, the game pass represents an excellent value for anyone who wants a quick game collection without selecting the things or buying them individually. There are some great games on that list with the promise of more to come, and it feels handily worth the $9.99 a month at the outset.
Downloading likely won’t be a large change from the way most players are currently experiencing their games anyway, making this a slightly smoother transition for much of the userbase than the PlayStation Now launch.
I’m genuinely interested to see how this develops, however. It’s not impossible to imagine that Microsoft would fold in streaming services at some point, allowing people to choose how they want to play with any given game. Without backwards compatibility, Sony would struggle to make the opposite move.
At launch Xbox Game Pass will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, and United States.