The Xbox Game Pass is a 9.99 monthly subscription that gives you access to 100 + games (most older releases and indie titles) with unlimited play. This month, Sea of Thieves will be the first game that debuts on the Xbox Game Pass as a day 1 release. Though the game is available for purchase at 59.99, like all other AAA titles, through Xbox Game Pass, you will be able to access the full game as well. This means that, like a Netflix or Hulu subscription, you will now have access to original Xbox content for a more accessible price. From a consumer’s perspective, it's a very exciting time to be a gamer. However, there are also some concerns that need to be considered before we fully buy into this new way of accessing games.
To clear things up, the Xbox Game Pass already offers an array of over 100 games. The change coming to the Xbox Game Pass is that now, Xbox exclusives will be available with the Xbox Game Pass from day one. Think of this like Netflix originals; games that are exclusive to Microsoft can be played through a subscription program. I would imagine that most consumers would rather pay 10 dollars for a new game rather than 60 dollars. Though you don’t flat out own the game, your experience of the game won’t be any different whether you choose to play via the subscription or play by buying the game at full retail price. Additionally, it is expected that these games will never leave Xbox Game Pass for the lifetime of the service. While the other 100 games may rotate to provide a variety of genres to experience, Microsoft exclusive games will be permanent additions to the service itself. If an Xbox owner planned on buying at least two Microsoft exclusive games at retail price (59.99), would they would end up spending close to 120.00 dollars. This is the same price as subscribing to the Xbox Box Game Pass for 10 dollars a month for one year with the added bonus of several dozen games that you may not own and now get a chance to try out.
Because the service isn’t based on a contract, if at any point in time you want to stop paying the monthly service, you can choose to opt out of Xbox Game Pass. Any games in the game pass that you enjoyed could be purchased before leaving at a 20% discount. This way, you can exit the program but continue to play the games that you want without it. Game franchises that we know will qualify for this program are Sea of Thieves, the Halo series, the Gears of War series, State of Decay 2, Crackdown (2018), the Forza series (both the simulator and the Horizon spin off), and any other game that Microsoft decides to fund as an exclusive to the console after March of 2018. As a consumer and an Xbox owner, how can one not be excited about the tremendous savings of big name games like those aforementioned?
My concern for this change happening comes from witnessing other gamers around me getting used to the culture change and expect more for less. Think of the last time that you or someone you know opened up their cellphone to play a game. This game was more than likely a free to play game (Words With Friends, for example). As is the case with most free to play games, they come riddled with advertisements that can go away with a one time purchase of .99 cents or up. Many people who truly invest long hours into these free to play games aren’t willing to pay less than a dollar to avoid seeing those ads forever. Once a game comes down in price, gamers will adjust their expectations of the price of games and expect that to be the norm for the next iteration. This could be problematic if Microsoft ever decides that the games available through a subscription service didn’t work out and decide to go back to pricing all their exclusives at the 59.99. All games released at normal price would be seen in a negative light because the price is not what gamers got used to anymore.
Now, if you have not touched a cellphone game, let us bring the conversation on the same playing field. Too often, I’ve heard some of my gamer friends say that they won’t play indie games or buy them because they, “...aren’t AAA games…” What I’m afraid will happen with games that are released under this program is that these same gamers may start to think that the quality of the games themselves isn’t as good because, “...they are available for 10 dollars, so it must not be a real AAA game.” If you aren’t one of these gamers, then you probably know of some that think this way about indie games. I can already see that games at a lower entry price point will be devalued in several gamers minds, enough to make a negative impact on the future of these games and other possible services despite of how fun these game may turn out to be.
If these two aren’t a major concern to you and you feel that exclusive Xbox games released on Xbox Game Pass will only bring forth a positive change, then perhaps this final concern will leave you pondering. All major consoles offer free games as part of an online subscription service. Playstation offers free games with the PS+ service, Nintendo will begin offering free games with their Nintendo Switch Online service, Xbox offers 4 free games monthly with their Xbox Games with Gold service, and even PC gamers have several notable subscription options for extremely cheap but high quality games with services like Humble Bundle Monthly. However, though all of us enjoy free or cheap games, the majority of us download the games and rarely touch them. Steam libraries, Xbox game libraries, and PS4 libraries worldwide are expanding at a rate that’s difficult to keep up with. If we only depended on monthly subscriptions to play those games available, I’m sure that those games would get more attention. However, because the free monthly games come at the same time that other newer, more exciting games release, we tend to download what is free (because why not) and ignore it. The mentality behind this is, “I will play it later. Since it was free, I already own it so it can wait.” The day rarely comes when we open the free game and play it to completion. I fear that games that come to Xbox Game Pass may experience the same thing. Xbox only console owners may decide to keep playing their in progress games to completion and not touch the newer games because, “it can wait.” Multiple platform owners may decide to buy a game for one of their other platforms on the same day as a major Xbox exclusive release because at a 10 dollar entry point, “it can wait.” Those three little words, “it can wait,” could be dangerous words to newer games that release on the Xbox Game Pass (especially if it’s a new intellectual property [IP]) because a gamer may never get to it, seeing as how they may have invested money or time elsewhere.
Though the examples that I provided are either anecdotal or hypothetical, they are arguably something to be wary of. I do look forward to Sea of Thieves releasing for 9.99 a month on the Xbox Game Pass and will be sailing the high seas with my pirate buddies on day one having a whale of a time. However, I will be keeping an eye out to see how this new method of releasing games rocks the boat for other possible services like them. Hopefully, Microsoft can run a tight ship and the program will make positive waves for consumers and game developers all around. Let me know in the comments below if I shed a new light on this subject for you, if you have additional concerns, or which was your favorite ocean pun. This is Trobadour_XP wishing Microsoft that this new delivery method of games is a success beyond any foreseen expectations and as always, #KeepitTRO (True, Respectful, Original)!
Noe Monsivais (Trobadour_XP)
is an English Literature teacher at an early college campus by day. He is a YouTube content creator and is currently working on getting his Masters in Educational Technology and Leadership. His favorite thing about people is when they #KeepitTRO (True, Respectful, Original). You can follow him and his crazy antics at: