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Xbox Game Pass continues to advance. Over the last year, Xbox Game Pass has added a number of EA titles to the service. It has also added mountains of third-party games, ranging from indie experimental titles to AAA blockbusters. Microsoft has added the ability to stream Xbox Game Pass titles to your Android devices from the cloud.
As we approach 2022, I thought I'd take a look back at the previous few years and how the service has grown and expanded. Here are some thoughts on Xbox Game Pass in 2022, as well as whether or not it is worth your time and money.
Xbox Game Pass 2022: So, what is it exactly?
Xbox Game Pass is Microsoft's all-you-can-eat video game subscription service, similar to Netflix. As of this writing, the service is available on Xbox One consoles, Xbox Series X and S consoles, PCs, and Android devices, and has since expanded to the web, granting access to iOS devices, Chromebooks, and many more.
Xbox Game Pass is available in three flavours: "Xbox Game Pass" provides access to a large library of games on your Xbox console. "Xbox Game Pass for PC" allows you to play a large library of games on your Windows PC. Finally, "Xbox Game Pass Ultimate" grants you access to all Xbox console games, Windows PC games, and a selection of games to stream from the cloud to PC, Android, and modern web-friendly devices. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes Xbox Live Gold, which is required for Xbox console multiplayer gaming.
Each tier guarantees day-one access to almost all of Microsoft's own first-party games, which has grown exponentially in recent years as a result of Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax and all of its subsidiary studios. Xbox Game Pass now includes Bethesda games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, id Software games like DOOM, and Machine Games' Wolfenstein, in addition to Microsoft's internal studio titles like Halo, Forza, and so on. Microsoft has also struck a deal with EA for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which includes dozens of classics from EA's back catalogue, such as Dead Space, Mass Effect, and others. If Microsoft's acquisition attempt is successful, Activision Blizzard games ranging from Call of Duty to Diablo may be added to the service in the future.
Xbox Game Pass for consoles and PC are both $9.99, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costing $14.99. Instead of purchasing Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass, and PC Game Pass separately, Game Pass Ultimate is clearly the best value if you intend to use all services across multiple devices. For those who haven't converted yet, Microsoft has an introductory offer to convert Xbox Live Gold long-term subscriptions directly into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Once subscribed, the attached account has immediate access to all of the games in the Xbox Game Pass games list, just as if they were licences owned by that account. On Xbox, simply go to your library and look for the Xbox Game Pass section. Xbox Game Pass is available on PC via the Xbox app for Windows 10. To access Xbox Game Pass in the cloud, download the Android app or use the Xbox app on PC. Because Apple's anti-competitive store policies effectively prohibit Xbox Game Pass cloud, you can use the Game Pass website on iOS and Chromebooks.
Now that you're up to speed, let's look at what makes Xbox Game Pass so special (and in some ways, not so great).
Xbox Game Pass 2022: What's great
The first reason should come as no surprise: video games. Games, games, and even more games. Unsurprisingly, Xbox Game Pass is chock-full of video games of all shapes and sizes, types and genres, and budgets large and small for all types of people.
Microsoft adds all of its games to Xbox Game Pass on a daily basis, including major upcoming titles like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. This demonstrates a high level of dedication and consistency to the platform, similar to how Netflix and Disney+ build their services with exclusive "original" content.
Many of the games developed by Microsoft for Xbox Game Pass receive regular updates. Post-launch support is being provided to titles such as Sea of Thieves, State of Decay, Minecraft Dungeons, and others. You have to wonder how much of the budget for these efforts is funded by Xbox Game Pass, given that keeping people engaged in your titles will also keep people engaged in your subscription service. However, Microsoft has also made significant investments in smaller genres and unique indie titles, ranging from truly great titles like Death's Door to the oft-overlooked RTS genre's Age of Empires IV. The variety in Xbox Game Pass is truly outstanding.
Aside from Microsoft's extensive library of games, the best Xbox Game Pass games also include titles from major third-party publishers. Football Manager from Sega and Crusader Kings III from Paradox are available for PC. We have a large library of classic EA games on console, including Mass Effect and Dead Space. Games like Streets of Rage 4 and Hades can be played on mobile devices without the use of a controller. There's literally something for everyone here, regardless of modality, preference, or level of attention. Xbox Game Pass's sheer volume and variety cannot be overstated.
When it comes to video games, I'm in a unique position. If I don't get them for review, I can frequently invoice them via Windows Central, and so on. But I haven't been doing this for so long that I can't recall working long hours in a minimum-wage job and struggling to justify spending £50 here or £40 there on games. Buying games has always been a difficult task for me. How many hours of fun can I expect? What is the replayability? What is the resale price? and so forth.
I recall being told as a child that I'd have to use both my Christmas and birthday presents to get a copy of Majora's Mask for the N64 because it was inexplicably £70 at the time. It would have been a godsend if I had had Xbox Game Pass when I was a kid. The freedom to graze and experiment with games without fear of losing money is a liberating experience. Microsoft will even give you Microsoft Rewards Points for playing Xbox Game Pass titles, which you can then use to get free Xbox Game Pass months. Xbox Game Pass is unrivalled in terms of sheer entertainment hours-per-cost value.
Some developers have expressed concerns about the value of Game Pass inclusion for them, but data appears to show that Game Pass inclusion actually helps retail sales in some cases, rather than hurts them. Despite being included in PC Game Pass, Sea of Thieves remained a top seller on Steam. The virality of access alone could be a game changer in this case, especially for multiplayer titles.
On occasion, I decided to try a game on a whim and discovered something new to enjoy. Star Renegades, along with Hades and Monster Train and a variety of other indie titles, is one such example for me. Finally, accessibility is critical for Xbox Game Pass. To that end, Microsoft built in the ability to stream Game Pass titles directly to any device, regardless of location (providing you have a semi-decent internet connection). Many of these games also include touch controls. And, if your internet connection is of sufficient quality, you can discover new games at any time and from any location.
Xbox Game Pass has made me fall in love not only with new games, but also with entire new studios, as I now want to follow their work and future games. Game Pass is more than just a gaming platform; it's also a vehicle for fandom, which is one area of the platform that I believe Microsoft could improve for developers in some ways. Indeed, there are a few ways I'd like to see Xbox Game Pass improved, even if it is already excellent.
Xbox Game Pass 2022: What's not so great
Xbox Game Pass has a number of quirks that make the platform less than ideal in some ways. They range from minor annoyances to major issues, but none of them appear to be deal breakers. Furthermore, this is just a sampling of what I believe Microsoft could do to improve the platform.
The first complaint I hear from parents on social media is a lack of family access. If you use a single shared Xbox, every profile on that home Xbox gains Xbox Game Pass access. If you have multiple Xbox consoles and a larger family, you'll need multiple Xbox Game Pass subscriptions to keep everyone online at the same time. This is an Xbox Game Pass disadvantage that appears to have been overlooked at the time the service was created.
Netflix and Disney+ both support multiple logins across multiple devices with concurrent streams at various price tiers. I believe Microsoft would be wise to consider offering a higher-paid tier for multi-user licencing for families.
Another source of annoyance for me is Xbox Cloud Gaming, also known as Project xCloud on Android (and iOS and PC via the web). Microsoft was one of the first and most successful companies to include a cloud gaming option in their service on this scale. Sony has PlayStation Now, but it does not always include its own games in the service. Amazon Luna is just getting started, while Google Stadia may be coming to an end.
Because of Apple's restrictive anti-competitive store policies, those who use iOS devices such as iPads or iPhones are currently unable to access Xbox Game Pass game streaming natively. Still, it's not entirely Microsoft's fault, and the web app is generally solid, if not ideal. However, Xbox Game Pass has some drawbacks on Android.
For the most part, playing console games on a smartphone is a chore. The user interface, camera distance, font sizes, and controls are all designed for large screens and rarely translate well to even the largest smartphones. Even though there are many good options in our best mobile clips for Xbox Cloud Gaming and a variety of great tablets that complement Xbox games, the usability isn't entirely ergonomic. Plastic clips and controller solutions are unbalanced, fiddly, and frequently made cheaply. Bluetooth introduces unwanted latency. Many third-party controllers are also significantly inferior to the official best Xbox controller options available.
With the success of the Nintendo Switch, we have repeatedly argued that Microsoft should develop an Android-based handheld designed for Xbox Cloud Gaming. It has yet to become a reality. However, even with the added latency, Xbox Cloud Gaming on phones remains a less-than-pleasant experience until then. On Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming, there are only two games with custom UI overlay touch controls: Hades and Minecraft. Many of the others, such as Streets of Rage 4, use standard icons with custom controls. Others employ standard gamepad controls, which are frequently ineffective. The interface for Pillars of Eternity is already complicated on Xbox. When you hide half of the UI behind touch controls, playing becomes excruciatingly painful.
Other parts of Xbox Game Pass that are a little sloppy are related to the Xbox platform as a whole, rather than to Xbox Game Pass specifically. There are some obvious ways PC Game Pass could be improved, such as aligning the features more closely with Steam. Microsoft hasn't updated or improved the Xbox achievement system in years. Hundreds of games are flooding the platform with intentionally easy achievements in an attempt to persuade people to play, undermining the system. There is no way to track rare and exceptionally difficult achievements in games obtained through Xbox Game Pass.
There's also no easy way to follow or interact with a specific developer via PC Game Pass. Developers can post updates and interact with the community via their game listings pages on Steam. You can view all of a developer's games by clicking on their name, but that's about it.
There are a few other minor issues. Microsoft does not have a modding platform that is even remotely similar to the Steam Workshop on PC, but they have added the option to unlock Xbox Game Pass PC games for modding via the Xbox app. It would be nice to see Microsoft directly support the modding community in the Xbox Game Pass PC app, as well as improvements to some of the social features, which, frankly, lag behind the likes of Discord in terms of speed and features.
In any case, Xbox Game Pass is ultimately about the games rather than the features that come with it. And in this regard, Xbox Game Pass is currently unrivalled.
Xbox Game Pass 2022: Is it worth it?
I feel like even the biggest Xbox and Microsoft haters on the planet are hard-pressed to find a reason to dislike this service. For a maximum of $15 a month, you get blanket access to all Xbox Game Studios games, all ZeniMax Media games, a ton of classic EA games, and various other third-party games, no questions asked.
What it's great for:
- Saving money on Microsoft and ZeniMax games
- Discovering new games frequently
- Streaming games to mobile devices via Android, laptops, or the web
What it's not great for:
- It's not great for those who still enjoy collecting physical games
- The lack of a family plan can inflate costs in big families
- The community aspects are weak compared to other services and platforms
- Xbox Cloud Gaming needs a lot of work on usability and ergonomics
- PC Game Pass is underbaked as a platform.
For anyone who wants to game while saving money, for others who simply want all-you-can-eat exploration and discovery, and for those who want to take their games on the go, Xbox Game Pass is simply divine.
There are features and improvements that need to come before I would describe the service as hitting maturity. The Xbox app on Windows 10/11 leaves a lot to be desired, for example, and the ergonomics of gaming on a phone have a long way to go. But at its core, Xbox Game Pass is all about games. Games, games, and more games. When it comes to that, Xbox Game Pass is a champion. Also, games.
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