Is Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass worth the money?
Dubbed the "Netflix of video games", Game Pass gets you a lot of bang for your buck but not everyone will see its value…
What is Xbox Game Pass?
Essentially you pay Microsoft some cash every month and in return you get access to a whole library of over 100 Games to download. Check the graphic below for your current options in Australia.
There are some incredible classic games, indies and third party titles but also some of the biggest and best known series in gaming. That includes a bunch of select titles from EA through their EA play service, almost everything ever published by Bethesda and everything from Microsoft and their huge back catalogue.
Many of these games release on the service the same day they go on sale as well. Last year we saw Forza Horizon 5, Age of Empires 4 and Halo Infinite all come to the service on their official launch day.
For people who can't afford to shell out $100 or more whenever a big new game comes out this represents ridiculously good value. Even if you play just a few games a year.
If you pay for ultimate you can stream most of these games to pretty much any internet enabled screen. That includes phones, iPad, Laptops… and even smart fridges.
Android and PC both have dedicated apps, but so long as your device has Microsoft Edge, Chrome or Safari - it also runs in your browser meaning you could play Halo Infinite on a Mac with Nintendo Switch controls, just as the developers intended.
The gameplay experience when streaming is good enough, so long as your internet is uninterrupted and fairly fast. Microsoft recommends above 20Mbps.
While it streams at up to 1080p 60fps it's certainly not the definitive way to play any of these games just yet. I've found even with a fast connection there is a very slight input lag so competitive games that require precise timing won't be ideal for the service. If your internet is a little slower you may also see artifacting around the screen and experience drop outs or short pauses which can be a little frustrating.
Still, it is a very handy way to try something before committing hard drive space to it, or if you just feel like playing when you're away from your PC or console.
Additionally, no matter where or how you play these games your saves will sync across every device you use this on. Essentially, you have access to your Xbox library and their saves wherever you go so long as you have an internet connection.
I checked out the cloud gaming service preview back in early 2021 and even back then it was a really solid experience. Check it out in the video below.
There's even more value to be had if you go with the premium "Ultimate" tier.
- It changes month to month but there are plenty of little extra goodies to claim in here. They often include extended trials for subscription services, discord nitro subscriptions and unique in game items. If you add all those extra perks up you've saved a fair bit of money already. Just remember to cancel the subscriptions before you start paying for all these services, because you are being signed up to a lot of stuff if you claim it all!
- Xbox Live Gold, which allows you to play online on Xbox consoles and gives you even more free games to download. Those ones are yours to keep by the way. If you cancel the service, you still own them. It will also grant you some discounts on games in the microsoft store.
So before we break down if it's worth it...what's the catch?
As with all subscription services you do not get to own any of these games.
If you stop subscribing you lose access. That may not seem like a huge issue upfront but after a couple of years of $15.95 a month, if you ever stop paying you've spent all that money and don't own anything at the end of the day. That means you have no collection and no chance to sell games on the second hand market.
Personally, I'm totally fine with renting my games because I won't have all of these extra discs to store and pack when I move house. I also like to try a lot of stuff and don't really go back to play them once I'm done. There is also the very real environmental advantage of being a digital download. There's no shipping games and printing them to physical resources and housing them in plastic. That's a plus in my book.
So is it worth it?
There are three plans to pick from. One for console only, one for PC only and ultimate which grants you access to both. As you can see here the PC and Ultimate versions also grant you EA play (which gets you all those select EA titles). You often won't see the newest stuff on EA play, but they do sometimes give you a 10 hour trial for the newer games. On PC you are also required to download their specific EA app and be logged into that as well.
So if we add up 12 months worth of Game Pass on the PC and Console only versions you're paying Microsoft $131.40 per year. You know that's a fair bit of money but games also cost a fair bit of money...
Say you wanted to buy Halo Infinite from a store - you are paying $100 to own that physical copy. If you're the kind of gamer who isn't likely to keep playing a game for years, renting it from Microsoft via Game Pass becomes way more appealing because you can play Halo AND all the other stuff in the library for just a little bit more than the price of owning one full game. If you play more than one big game a year, you've kind of made your money back already.
Now let's look at Ultimate. You will be spending $191.40 per year.
At almost $200 you're getting value back after playing just two or more of the big new releases. Again, I think that's pretty great value. Not to mention all the extra perks and cloud gaming on top of that.
It's hard to quantify exactly how valuable cloud gaming is but it's essentially giving you an Xbox Series X to play on remotely. Considering those are about $1000 on the reseller market it'll take you over 5 years to pay that equivalent cost and you've had access to an ever expanding game library that entire time as well.
If you end up using it a lot, you've essentially scored yourself a budget xbox without having to actually buy one. That's pretty cool.
Now, if you're more of a fan of indies or older titles or just don't really care about the latest stuff, it is a bit of a different story…
A lot of Game Pass games are available to purchase on other digital stores as well. Take Steam for example. Imagine coming to a Steam sale knowing you have a budget of $191. I could buy all the games I want, and they'll be tied to my account forever. Not just till I stop paying Microsoft.
Here's an example of games I just totally randomly picked during a sale. Some are on Game Pass, others aren't.
That's 11 games that should keep me occupied for well over a year. It's admittedly a little harder on console but used game stores serve a similar role - there are always bargains to be had there.
The Xbox store also occasionally has sales, or you could take advantage of that $1 first month of ultimate, try all the games you want, make use of the discounts to buy the ones you liked, and then just cancel the service.
Overall if you're looking for straight up value Game Pass rewards the quantity of games played. Yes, you do get your money's worth for playing through two big expensive titles, but if you play 15 or 20 in that year. You're still paying the same price. It encourages you to play and try more stuff.
So if you are the sort of person who just wants to try everything, Game Pass represents huge value, but if you like to take your time and sink your teeth into a game, don't really care about the latest releases or like to actually own a collection - waiting for a sale can be just as valuable, sometimes even more so.
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