Xbox Game Pass has changed the habits of gamers and the games themselves

Xbox Game Pass has changed the habits of gamers and the games themselves

Since its introduction five years ago, the Xbox Game Pass has revolutionized the way many gamers play, so much so that it has completely changed the ecosystem of Microsoft consoles. The service first launched in 2017 and has been at the heart of Xbox marketing strategies ever since. In fact, it is no coincidence that the Game Pass has also expanded to PCs and through cloud functions that allow you to play the titles in the catalog also via mobile devices.

With the arrival of the new generation of consoles from Microsoft – composed of Xbox Series X and Series S – the emphasis on service has been even greater, especially with regard to the choice of Series S. This console represents the entry level for the next gen, less powerful than its older sister but also much less expensive, due to a slightly lower capacity GPU and the absence of an optical disc reader. So those who buy a Series S mainly do so by taking advantage of the Game Pass, given the absolute dependence on the digital titles of this console. Microsoft's strategy in promoting its new service can be said to have worked, given that today it is unthinkable to have a console of the Xbox family without taking advantage of the great advantages of the Game Pass subscription. This condition has also led to a new way of playing games and even thinking about game development.

The opportunities of Xbox Game Pass

Many have defined Xbox Game Pass as the Netflix of video games , and rightly so, to be honest. Numerous titles are inserted every month, often even just released on the market, which happens automatically with Microsoft exclusives such as Halo Infinite or Forza Horizon 5 . At the same time, the games in the catalog don't stay forever (apart from first party titles like the ones just mentioned), and are replaced very often, just like it happens on Netflix. Despite this, the subscription service allows users to access a catalog of hundreds of titles, ranging from triple-A greats to indies that no one has ever heard of. Many indie developers have revealed that being on Game Pass has been a boon for them, as through the service and word of mouth, their games have gained popularity that they would never have achieved with a more traditional publishing method. .

A first party title developed by Obsidian Entertainment (famous for Fallout New Vegas , Pillars of Eternity and much more) called Pentiment was released in November, a very unique adventure made with a unique art style inspired to the art of the Late Middle Ages. The story of the game itself is full of historical references and quotes from real sources, which frame a story that is very reminiscent of great novels such as The Pillars of the Earth or The Name of the Rose. The director of the title, Josh Sawyer, revealed that this game - a minor project created by only 13 people - would not have existed without the Game Pass, because it was too niche to be sold in a context of normal publication. Yet the title, thanks to the chance it received, was acclaimed by critics and the public.

The recent case of Pentiment is perhaps the most symbolic, but there are many titles that have been discovered by the general public only to be in the catalogue. Tunic, for example, is a title that is very reminiscent of the classic Zelda in style, with a retro gameplay made up of tricks and secret codes typical of 90s games and which is no longer used in the design of modern titles; yet this style was liked so much that the game was nominated as one of the best indies of the year at The Game Awards. Even the disturbing horror adventure Scorn , characterized by an artistic component that is very reminiscent of the works of Giger and Beksiński, has obtained a higher than normal audience response precisely due to its presence on Game Pass. Normally, in fact, few would have bought this game at full price, knowing its short duration of about five or six hours.

A screenshot of Pentiment Obsidian Entertainment And like the titles mentioned, many others have stood out and changed the way many users experience video games, who now feel eager to dare and try something that normally wouldn't be in their comfort zone, often discovering unexpected gems. In this way, the service is good for the entire industry, which can afford to create something more particular and unique by taking risks that it normally wouldn't take, just like what happened with Pentiment .

A future constantly evolving

What has been missing in the Xbox Game Pass until now are the titles of a certain weight created by internal Microsoft studios, those first parties that justify the subscription. If Nintendo released a huge amount of exclusives this year and Sony closed the year with the excellent God of War: Ragnarok , Xbox offered practically nothing really big for the whole of 2022. The only title that had to out was Starfield , RPG set in Bethesda's space, then postponed to next year. Microsoft has also conducted an aggressive acquisition campaign in recent years, only possible due to its economic status far superior to its direct competitors. For this reason, it was possible to afford the acquisition of Zenimax, to which Bethesda belongs, and of many other important software houses such as the aforementioned Obsidian. By April 2023 we will find out if Activision Blizzard will also join the team.

The problem is that a few years have passed since the first major acquisitions and at the moment nothing has yet been seen that could become the next big Xbox exclusive other than the usual known quantities consisting of Halo , Forza Horizon , Gears of War and Microsoft Flight Simulator . If already from next year we start to see heavy titles, such as Starfield , the future The Elder Scrolls VI , the remake of Fable , the graphically impressive Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 and other titles still shrouded in mystery, then we will really be able to see a leap of remarkable quality for the Xbox Game Pass.

Microsoft has shown that it wants to bet more and more on its subscription service, so much so that it sells it at such a low price that it knows it cannot immediately recoup its costs. Yet in just five years that service has surpassed 25 million users and is slowly expanding in other directions that transcend the box made of plastic and circuitry known as a console. First the Game Pass arrived on PC, then the cloud service was born and now it is starting to be integrated into some new generation televisions, a bit like the Netflix app.

In the future, therefore, Microsoft aims to create an ecosystem thanks to which it will truly be possible to play anywhere, without the need to have a console at hand. Road that Google Stadia had already tried to go, failing miserably due to senseless service management. However, Microsoft has shown that it knows what it wants and could succeed where others have failed. The one thing you will always have to remember is that users will continue to love Game Pass as long as it offers them great games. These ultimately are the most important thing of all, regardless of the path that the gaming world decides to go in the future.

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