Microsoft has announced that its own first-party games will be available online on its like-Netflix-but-for-games Xbox Game Pass subscription service at the same time that those games are out everywhere else, starting with Sea of Thieves in March.
This is a Big Deal, and you know it’s important because of the capital letters.
Currently priced at R159 per month, Xbox Game Pass already includes unlimited access to a catalogue of more than 100 Xbox One and backwards compatible Xbox 360 games, making it a mandatory must-buy for new and existing console gamers who might’ve missed them the first time around. Adding stuff like Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 – and, in future, inevitable new Gears of War, Halo, and Forza games – at launch is an audacious decision, gambling those pre-order and day one sales on an increase in subscriber numbers.
“The number one request from our customers… was to get new blockbuster games into Game Pass,” Microsoft games boss Phil Spencer tells The Verge. “We’ll continue to invest more and more into first party. The fact that those first-party games will launch into Game Pass just gives our customers more choice in how they get to play those games.”
The obvious question, however, is whether or not the company’s line-up is worth it at the moment. Besides neon-retro indie platformer The Last Night, last year’s announcements at E3 were kind of… missing, and the Gamescom conference wasn’t much of an improvement. But with an annual subscription cost of about two AAA games, how many compelling new exclusives do they even need?