Xbox Game Pass is objectively the best deal in gaming. For $15 a month, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate grants you access to hundreds of games ranging from first-party exclusives like Halo Infinite to third-party offerings like Guardians of the Galaxy. It also has the best cloud gaming streaming service that allows you to play Xbox games on mobile devices. Dollar for dollar, there is no other gaming service that can match what Game Pass is bringing.
But despite all of its virtues, I’ve decided to unsubscribe from Game Pass. It’s a fantastic service for most gamers, but at present, it has failed to deliver the main thing I originally signed up for. If you’re like me, then you may feel the same way.
Indies are cool... but where are the blockbusters?
While I certainly appreciate independent games and the passion of the developers behind those titles, indies (as they're typically called) have never fully satisfied me. And it isn’t because I’m unfamiliar with them. I’ve played a great deal during the course of my ten-year-long career. Titles like Braid, Limbo, The Banner Saga, The Talos Principle and many more are experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed. But as great as they are, none of the hundreds of indie titles I’ve played and reviewed have given me the same thrill and satisfaction of a blockbuster “AAA” game.
Right now, Xbox Game Pass is arguably the best home for independent titles. If you’re into games that aren’t the standard fare, then Game Pass provides a gold mine of unique and quirky experiences. Titles like Hades, Death’s Door, Tunic, Weird West, The Ascent showcase the best of the indie scene. That’s great and all, but these games simply don’t do it for me.
Maybe I’m shallow, but I’ve always been into graphics and graphical fidelity. I still recall being disappointed that the 16-bit versions of Street Fighter II and Final Fight didn’t look as good as the arcade originals. Gameplay is certainly important, but if a title doesn’t look visually appealing, then I won’t find it as enjoyable. Though some indies like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and A Plague Tale: Innocence boast impressive visuals, they still don’t quite match those seen in big-budget blockbusters.
Game Pass has no shortage of games but there’s no debating that it’s all but bereft of major first-party titles from Microsoft Studios and the studios it owns. During E3 2018, Xbox head Phil Spencer stated that Game Pass would receive four to five major exclusives per year. If Microsoft had delivered on that promise, this article wouldn’t exist. Xbox isn’t my primary gaming platform (that’s PS5) so getting four to five big exclusives per year would be perfect. But things haven’t exactly panned out that way.
Since the perpetually out-of-stock Xbox Series X launched, Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem has received a grand total of two legitimate big-time exclusives: Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. The latter is one of the most graphically impressive titles on the market and is certainly a showcase. However, it’s a racing game, which is a genre I haven’t cared much about since the glory days of Daytona USA and Sega Rally Championship. As for Halo Infinite, I’m not interested until it gets co-op mode.
But even if Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 had been the best games I’ve ever played, they would only constitute two titles. I’m fully aware and sympathetic toward the hardships the gaming industry has faced due to the effects of the global pandemic. But I don’t see the point of continuing to pay for a service that has, thus far, only received two major exclusives. It’s a waste of my money.
What about Game Pass' other offerings?
On top of indies, Xbox Game Pass has a ton of classic titles from Microsoft first-party studios and third-party developers. Back 4 Blood, Rainbow Six Siege, The Outer Worlds, Doom Eternal, Control, Dragon Quest XI and many many more are available at your digital fingertips. This, in addition to the aforementioned indie titles, are what makes Game Pass the best deal in gaming for the majority of gamers.
However, given my lifestyle, I can't indulge in playing older games. If I'm playing a game, it's because I'm either reviewing it or writing an op-ed about it. Yes, I could probably whip up a piece about why Mortal Kombat 11 is incredible. But that time could be better spent playing something that's more, for the lack of a better word, relevant. This isn't a complaint, just the reality of my situation.
But even when I wasn't a journalist, I would always play games at launch. This is why I often find myself frustrated whenever there's a sale on digital storefronts belonging to PlayStation, Xbox and Steam. More often than not, I own all the games I care to play. This is also true with Xbox Game Pass. Either I've already finished whatever big new third party gets added, I don't care for it or I simply can't play it. The latter is the reason I probably won't play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt anytime soon despite my desire to experience it.
At present, I have no reason to continue subscribing to Xbox Game Pass. However, I plan to resubscribe once major Xbox exclusive games start releasing with greater frequency. Microsoft acquired Bethesda and will soon own Activision Blizzard. Once they start churning out titles, Xbox Game Pass will no doubt be irresistible.
Games like the recently delayed Starfield and Redfall will come, as will whatever Activision Blizzard is cooking up. When that happens, I’ll come return to Game Pass. But until that time, I’ll patiently wait for the service to give me the blockbuster Xbox exclusives I desire.