Xbox Game Pass Is An Incredible Idea That Falls Flat (For Now)

Yesterday was a big day for Xbox One owners. After a couple of years of knowing they bought an Xbox One when twice as many of their friends bought PS4s, Xbox owners got to feel vindicated in their choice as Microsoft launched the first true Netflix for digital games. Xbox Game Pass is a subscription service whereby any Xbox One owner can pay $10.95 a month to get access to over 100 games spanning the entire course of Xbox's history. That sounds incredible! Too bad most of the games are kind of crap.

This is a great selection... of pretty old games. (Image: Screenshot)

The Xbox One Game Pass system works by actually downloading the games directly to your hard drive, which unfortunately won't enable offline play, as the system still needs to check online and ensure you're a Game Pass subscriber. The download, however, does mean you aren't beholden to your network's speed to have a reasonable experience. As long as you have internet that goes and $10.95 a month, you get a hundred plus games.

Or I should say, a hundred plus not-so-great games. Yes, there are outliers. Soul Calibur and Fable 3 are both great games, and the Gears of War franchise is nice for letting you chainsaw through alien brains. But those titles, primarily made for the Xbox 360 or earlier consoles, are pretty dang ugly looking now days. They're still a lot of fun, but when you're investing $10.95 a month you want some top-tier games alongside the 15-year-old ones.

That's where Halo 5 comes in. It's one of a handful of games created in the last three years for the Xbox One that's available on Game Pass. In many respects, it's the only real marquee title in the current Game Pass offering. It's frustrating as it seems to stand alone, shining bright among the hundred plus games that are older than the Xbox One console itself.

In a sense, we're seeing a bit of a parallel here with the early years of Netflix's streaming service -- back when it was still mailing DVDs and before it was a TV show production powerhouse. When streaming launched on Netflix back in 2007, the choices were as meagre as the game options on Xbox's Game Pass service are now. There were a few marquee titles, but it was primarily kind of old and kind of crummy stuff. So while Xbox's subscription service has pretty damn poor selection now, it could improve!

And a $10.95 per month video games-on-demand service doesn't necessarily need the same broad range of options a video-on-demand service like Netflix needs. Movies are consumed in two hours and forgotten, but people play the same video games for days -- sometimes months.

While I found myself annoyed looking for a game to play when I first set Game Pass up, I still found two games to while a weekend away with -- smashing faces in Soul Calibur 2 and feeling deep nostalgia whilst replaying Fable 3. I didn't mind that there wasn't a 2017 AAA title for me to play, and perhaps you won't either.

Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass service works, technologically speaking -- and it works damn well. If you can stomach the meagre offering of games currently in its library, and you don't mind that they might disappear from the service within a month or two, then Xbox Game Pass could be a real boon. You'd be hard pressed to ever have access to as many games for as low a price. If you want a bunch of current blockbuster titles, this service isn't for you.


Comments

    but when you're investing $10.95 a month you want some top-tier games alongside the 15-year-old ones.
    Someone sounds entitled about a new system that's going to take time to balance and populate. Even Netflix didn't launch with a hole ton of mega hits to balance the crap. How about giving it some time before completely shutting on it like an entitled millennial bitching that they didn't get the latest iPhone.

      We can't do that. Everything must be excellent now!

      I'm sad I can only upvote you once. What an unmitigated pile of subjectivity bundled and served as Kotaku's Official Position on Game Pass.

      I'm getting an exceptional amount of mileage out of Game Pass. At the moment I'm working my way through Mad Max and I've got the Gears remaster there to tackle after that. All the old Bioshock's are lined up there (I suppose they're not Blockbusters by this post's definition) to go back to when I get the time, and - perhaps the greatest addition to any gaming library anywhere - Alex Kidd is on there!! (I'm a Sega kid, forgive my excitement)

      I mean .... we live in farking Australia ... the home of internet speeds resembling the wart on the arse of society. And here is the best bits of Netflix, wrapped up in a service that we can actually use without the need for a constant, stable connection ... but no, let's piss and moan about the new game to gross library ratio.

      Here's something more nuanced. I offer it to Allure for free ...

      Things that will cause your mileage to vary with Game Pass:
      - How much you earn / disposable income
      - How much time to play games
      - How many games you've played in the past

      ... excuse me, I'm going for a cup of tea and a lay down ...

        Well said like a civil Australian Xbox user who deserves multiple acts of awesomeness.

        When you're starving, even a shit sandwich will start to look mighty appetising :-)

          You can have all the filling you want ... but I'd rather a thick crusty roll over wafer thin mountain wraps any day.

          (That's an analogy about X1 vs PS4 operating systems for those playing at home)

      Also acting like $11 a month is a huge "investment" when most of these games are worth that or more by themselves. If you play one of these a month it's well worth it.

      If you want a bunch of current blockbuster titles, this service isn't for you.

      If you were expecting that from a service like this then you have lost your marbles. Do you log on to netflix and expect movies that are currently on at the cinemas? Or do you expect movies that have been out on dvd for a while?

      Last edited 03/06/17 9:27 pm

      Although it is almost like they covered that point in the article
      In a sense, we're seeing a bit of a parallel here with the early years of Netflix's streaming service — back when it was still mailing DVDs and before it was a TV show production powerhouse. When streaming launched on Netflix back in 2007, the choices were as meagre as the game options on Xbox's Game Pass service are now. There were a few marquee titles, but it was primarily kind of old and kind of crummy stuff. So while Xbox's subscription service has pretty damn poor selection now, it could improve!

        Buried in the middle of a lot of entitlement whining. Kinda easy to miss.

      Mase sounds like they didn't read the article and jumped on board for some good old fashioned name calling. Congrats.

        Almost sounds like you're white knighting a bunch of writers who do nothing but complain about something that people might actually like.
        (Go on mods, ban me for this one.)

      Well said agree 100% this JUST started. Give it a chance to improve, just like with anything else.

    I don't think I've ever seen "fable 3" and "great game" in the same sentence until now

    I've supported Xbox since day 1 but I can't see how they get out of the hole that the platform currently inhabits. A new subscription service for games most people have played is unlikely to help and what's the point of Scorpio when the platform lacks compelling exclusive content. I fear that E3 2017 is shaping up as do or die for this platform.

      Yeah, the Xbox One feels like it has a lot going for it feature-wise now but the games just aren't there to make me play it. My Xbox One has basically just become a media system at this point, I even keep the controllers here at my PC as that's where they get used more often :P

      There's apparently some big developer stories to come out in-line with Scorpio, but I thought they had planned to message that in between the tech specs and the reveal ... not sure if there's been a comms change since then, perhaps they're going to spin them out of E3 (or everything has turned to shit and the devs switched to Sony!!), but I've got more faith in Phil Spencer than Yosp (#BetterPSN) so I'll remain optimistic.

      I personally like the shift towards Xbox as a service. I'd like to see them ramp up their PC presence as a social network and ditch consoles all together.

    Apart from the fact it downloads games instead of streaming (and also that it might actually be available on this side of the planet) how does this differ from PS Now?

      Mostly what you mentioned but also (at least for the moment) PS Now only offers PS3 and Vita games - not PS1, PS2 or PS4 games.

      So essentially it's not only the first games streaming service available here in Australia but it's also the first to give us current-gen games - though this article says there isn't much there just yet.

      Those differences alone should make it stand out well above PSNow ... I'm curious other than an expanded library what more you're after?

    "After a couple of years of knowing they bought an Xbox One when twice as many of their friends bought PS4s" - BS. Friends tend to have the same consoles as each other. All my gaming friends have xbox ones or both consoles.

    Did I just read that right? SoulCalibur is ugly these days? It may look dated, but it's far from ugly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WCflFtHzAc

      I played Soul Calibur 2 on my PS2 the other night and it holds up extremely well against modern fighting games, even Tekken 6 & 7. From what I understand, Xbox Game Pass offers Soul Calibur 2 HD Online, which is a HD remaster using better renders and shaders. I have no idea how anyone could call a Soul Calibur game ugly outside of the PSX era early 3D model games

    15 year old games? Bit of a hyperbolic statement. I don't see anything here from 2003, the 360 wasn't even released then.

    I think the common evaluation of this service here from gaming websites such as kotaku and the 'hardcore gaming' audiences are kind of missing the point.

    Yes it doesn't have the latest games, yes it's all things you've probably played before. But I don't think you're the target audience. People like you and I have been with the xbox since the 360 and before, and very much are the types that would have already played any titles that interest us. A service like this doesn't offer us any real value, unless it's full of new release games, which will never happen.

    If, on the other hand, you never had a 360, or are young and new to gaming, or have children / teens that weren't exposed to every latest release from the last decade, this is tremendous value and a good way to catch up with some real classics.

    For the record, I share the same thoughts - I've played all these games before, or already have them through Games with Gold, and won't be subscribing to this service, even if I had the time to play them. But I think it will be great for my nephews.

    It will be interesting to see how this service evolves going ahead, how the content rotation will work and how big a userbase it will generate.

      Yeah. I feel the same way. The only reason I'd go with it is if money got so tight I couldn't buy new games, but that doesn't make it a bad service.

    That $10.95 you're spending on this service is not an "investment", as you put it - it is an expense, and certainly not a critical one at that. Is this level of money management skill part of the reason millenials (a demographic to which I belong) can't afford houses? [now donning pitchfork armor]

    I think I found a typo in the article.
    There's a line there where you say
    Soul Calibur and Fable 3 are both great games
    I'm sure you meant to say Fable 2 and your finger slipped.

    This service isn't for the avid gamer, it's for people like me, love gaming but also have a family now and don't have much money or time to spend on games but for the price of two new A+++ games a year I have access to all the old games I never had a chance to but, but do now and doesn't cost the earth. Remember 12/month is only 144 / year. Great value for all of those games, and if I don't like one game, no problem delete it and find a new one.

      Reminds me of when I first got Stan. Then a few months later I'd watched everything I had wanted to watch and ended up cancelling the service.

        I did that. I've since re-subbed, since they have basically endless stuff now that they added the entire back-catalogue of Seinfeld, The Nanny, Will & Grace, Frasier, Vicar of Dibley and more...

        Last edited 05/06/17 1:54 pm

    A more preferable service than the PS4 equivalent. But Xbox doesn't really have any games I want to play. Far too America-centric.

    Seems a hell of a lot better than the streaming-while-playing option of PSNow, at half the price. And I'm not as bummed by the title selection, either... there's quite a few titles there I never picked up from the 360 era, and more than a few interesting options on the xbone, too.

    I've been meaning to play Bound by Flame, D4, DmC, Fable 3, Farming Simulator 15, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Massive Chalice, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Metal Slug 3, Resident Evil 0, Sacred 3, ScreamRide, plus a BUNCH of the Sega classics...

    Reckon I might actually pick this up. I mean, the early list I reckon would keep me pretty well busy for the month at least.

    Am I supposed to feel bad because you state that others bought a PS4? News flash, I don't care. For me the xb1 is a better console and you just sound like a hater.

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