Described by Eurogamer as a “Netflix-style” product, Xbox Game Pass has become something of a benchmark for digital content libraries since its June 2017 launch date. The service, which includes Xbox Gold and EA Play membership, provides access to a vast number of games for Xbox and PC that changes every month – for better or worse. How is it faring against other, similar packages, though?
There are more gaming subscriptions on offer than is really necessary, let’s be honest. Ubisoft, Nintendo, PlayStation, EA, Humble Bundle, Nvidia, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have their own rent-a-catalogue scheme going on, which offer some semblance of value in almost every case. However, they can also feel like a way to force users to stick with a single system or publisher.
The mobile options, namely, Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass, are perfect for gamers that live on their phones, but Humble Choice and Prime Gaming are a little bit niche. The former offers ten games a month with the option to keep any or all of them (and gives the proceeds to charity) while Amazon’s Prime Gaming is another part of its ever-expanding Prime subscription that comes with a rotating collection of twelve-monthly titles.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now is the major odd one out on this list of streaming services as it only works with games the subscriber already owns. It’s a cloud-based platform that leases access to powerful computers. This means that people with a lousy PC but a fast internet connection can play new titles at the highest graphics via interactive streaming. It’s what Google tried to do with Stadia.
Overall, the Xbox Game Pass does seem to come out on top in many areas. It’s not the cheapest at £7.99 – £10.99 per month but it can cover two whole platforms, in Xbox and PC, and, as mentioned, it comes bundled with EA Play. Perhaps more relevant to Q4 2021, it will also include the next entry in Microsoft’s flagship sci-fi shooter, Halo. If nothing changes, Halo Infinite will release in December.
The problem with subscription services is that they can operate in isolation. If you’ve only got a PC, you’re not going to be mulling over the purchase of PlayStation Plus, for example. This means that there’s very little in the way of competition in the space. The only packages likely to hold any interest for Sony’s fans are the mobile ones – and that’s only if they’re active mobile gamers.
Of course, this is (probably) intended. Somebody looking for a console who already owns the PC version of the Xbox Game Pass is inevitably going to lean towards another Microsoft purchase rather than splitting their library in half (and doubling the cost) by crossing no man’s land to Sony and the PlayStation. It’s not an ideal situation for consumers, though, but even a third party like EA is now attached to Microsoft.
Encouraging competition in the games subscription space would arguably benefit everybody involved. A related entertainment niche, casino gaming, is so saturated with games and operators that both new and existing companies try to leverage freebies to get players on board. Oddschecker collates these free spins casino websites and even provides advice on how to detect legitimate ones within the crowd.
Something similar does exist in conventional video gaming but usually in the form of temporary discounts. Xbox Game Pass is £3 for three months on PC, for example, while the Epic Games Store is well-known for providing free titles on a monthly or weekly basis. In Epic’s case, this could appear like simple generosity but the reality might sound a little more sinister. You are the product or, more specifically, your data is.
The power of promotions can’t really be overstated, though. After Epic Games gave away GTA V for free in mid-2020, actual sales of the crime sim increased to their highest level ever in the following six weeks.Overall, there’s much to be said about the value and usefulness of game passes, especially as, in some cases, the rotating libraries means that ownership becomes an ephemeral, fleeting thing. Do you mind if your favourite games are whisked away every month or that you only have a handful of titles to choose from?