I already waxed poetic about Xbox Game Pass a couple of months ago due to the sheer scale of games available on it. From the deeply human stories of Yakuza to the dirty dystopia of Dishonored, to the fantastical dilemmas of Dragon Age and the harrowing detritus of Prey, this is a service that teems with characters, stories, and experiences that wrench any preconceived notions you might have about games into a million different contorted forms. It’s the most varied smorgasbord you’ll ever encounter, and yet gorging on it will never make you feel full.
Yesterday, Microsoft revealed that Game Pass has now surpassed 23 million subscribers worldwide. That’s an absurd number of people, although it’s still not as high as it ought to be – I reckon we’ll continue to see immense growth in the coming months due to how excellent Xbox has been with affordability, accessibility, and backwards compatibility, as well as the fact colossal launches like Halo Infinite will be free for Game Pass users on day one.
But that’s not the only kind of game that’s free-to-play on Xbox. Sure, Microsoft bought Bethesda and combined Game Pass with EA Play to bring you everything from Skyrim to Mass Effect and Doom Eternal to Dragon Age, but it was also recently announced that several titanic titles will no longer require an Xbox Gold subscription. Essentially, provided you own an Xbox console, you’ll be able to play Warzone, Apex Legends, Fortnite, Warframe, Rocket League, and more completely free of charge.
I mean, Destiny 2 is even available on Game Pass, as well as the Forsaken, Shadowkeep, and Beyond Light expansions for it – that doesn’t require Xbox Gold anymore either. The other five games are free anyway, meaning you literally have thousands of hours’ worth of quality online games and the only thing you need to pay for is a console. In fact, you don’t even need that because Game Pass also works on PC and mobile. While Sony appears to be focusing on remakes, remasters, and sequels for its prestige IP, Xbox is in the process of forming a free-to-play technical oligarchy across not just conventional consoles, but typical everyday devices. Fortnite already has a mobile version and Apex Legends is getting one in the near future – you’d wonder how Xbox is making any money at all before you consider the fact that, as mentioned previously, Game Pass has over 23 million subscribers now. That’s a lot of money per month, by the way, and it’s not as if Microsoft is lacking profit outside of the video game sphere.
Also, speaking of Sony IP, MLB: The Show 21 – a series traditionally associated with Sony – is on Game Pass now. 60 quid on PS5 or free of charge on Xbox Series X – I reckon we both know what the better deal is. Outriders day one… the wins just keep coming.
I’ve been a diehard PlayStation fan for almost ten years. Persona 5 Royal, Bloodborne, The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part 2, The Last Guardian, God of War, and Shadow of the Colossus are all some of my favourite games of all time. I also adore Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn, which were PS4-exclusive prior to being ported to PC, and Nier: Automata – which was only available on PlayStation before it came to both PC and Xbox – is in my top five. I genuinely love most of Sony’s prestige games.
But ever since I got my Xbox Series X earlier this year, I feel as if I’m a new man. I’ve been converted to what I thought was the dark side, where tragic games like Halo 5 reside, and yet I’m having more fun and playing more games than I have in several years. I’ve played dozens of games from my backlog, revisited some of my favourite titles that were incredibly difficult to access on modern consoles this time last year, and done basically everything in between. I mean, Game Pass is what got me into Yakuza – my friends probably hate Game Pass precisely because I never shut up about Kiryu and Majima now.
Seeing Xbox continue to rack up its subscriber count while making games more and more affordable and accessible is amazing. Every time I think, “Surely that’s the last thing it can do, Game Pass and Microsoft’s general player-first sentiment can’t go any further,” it goes and pulls another rabbit out of the hat. Xbox can’t stop winning, and I can’t stop being legitimately amazed by every single W it gets. It feels like I spent years in Sony’s pocket before realizing that Microsoft was offering to jump into mine all along – I’m Xbox all the way from here on out.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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