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 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.
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’re not beholden to your network’s speed to have a reasonable experience. As long as you have internet that goes and ten bucks 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 a month you want some top-tier games alongside the fifteen-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 meager 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 a 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 meager 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.