Finally, Xbox convinced me Game Pass is a must-have

Finally, Xbox convinced me Game Pass is a must-have
Antony Terence Updated on by

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While Game Pass has been adding noteworthy titles over the years, a sharp criticism it has faced is the lack of exciting first-party exclusives. Microsoft shutting down four first-party studios last month only aggravated the issue, while pushing Hellblade 2 onto the service only hampered its launch too. But at Xbox’s 2024 Showcase, Microsoft showed us a silver bullet that they’ve been preparing for years: a solid selection of games developed in-house, most of which hit the platform on Day One.

Sure, some of them are multi-platform but as long as Sony doesn’t let Game Pass into the PS5 like a Trojan horse to cripple PS+ subscriptions, Xbox and PC players will access the latest and greatest titles at a steep discount. We got eight brand-new Game Pass titles at the showcase, with even more on the way. 

New releases are a good sign as Game Pass earned a “used car dealer” reputation over the years, dropping in older titles or underperforming ones when it came to AAA releases. That changes this year. While players have known about Call of Duty: Black Ops 6’s Game Pass release, a new campaign and novel “omnimovement” mechanics make it the most exciting CoD title in years. 

Gears of War: E-Day from The Coalition takes us back to when the Locust was a new threat, complete with Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago in tow. We also got treated to id Software’s DOOM: The Dark Ages with a brutal reveal that swanned chainsaw shields, a gun that shreds skulls for ammo, a rideable dragon and yes, a massive Doomguy mech. 

Microsoft didn’t just focus on established franchises though. New IP from smaller studios got to share the spotlight too. Clair Obscur: Expedition 33 is a debut title from Sandfall Interactive, promising a new RPG with an enigma of a villain. Winter Burrow from Pine Creek Games is an adorable tale of a mouse on the lookout for their lost aunt. And Mixtape is a joyous celebration of teenage friendship from Beethoven & Dinosaur (makers of The Artful Escape). It’s the sheer variety on display that makes Game Pass a tempting proposition.

Fable, Atomfall, and Wuchang: Fallen Feathers are scheduled for 2025 but there’s plenty coming this year. The fan-favourite Age of Mythology: Retold and souls-lite Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn are arriving later in 2024, giving players more reasons to hop back. But that doesn’t mean the service is free from its growing pains. While Microsoft acquired studios like Double Fine and Ninja Theory to bridge its AAA-sized gap, the assumed benefit of a safety net has, in some cases, worked against them. Experimental titles like Obsidian’s Pentiment and Tango Gameworks’ Hi-Fi Rush exceeded expectations. That wasn’t good enough for Microsoft, as Tango Gameworks was shuttered last month. The question on my mind during the showcase was: how many of these will be ‘enough’?

Despite these setbacks, the service continues to grow with first-party and third-party titles across genres. It has always been a discovery engine for indie titles but Microsoft wants to reach further and capture the AAA space as well. Bringing in new games on day one is proof of Microsoft’s commitment on a level we don’t see from Sony. Some might attribute that to system-sellers like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and God of War Ragnarok. But with Microsoft’s first-party library being shored up by grizzled veterans and newly acquired studios, there’s never been a better time to grab a Game Pass subscription than now.