Gamers are spoiled for choice in the modern age. Unfortunately for Microsoft, their Xbox One hasn't quite managed to match up to the PlayStation 4 in either popularity or market share - not to mention PC gaming or what can be accomplished on a smart phone. Microsoft has needed to make a big move for a while now.
One of the criticisms of the Xbox One is the lack of backward compatibility. While the PlayStation 4 is not wholly better, with PlayStation Now allowing fans access to PS3 games through streaming only, it was still better than nothing for many. The Xbox couldn't compete, but now things might be looking up.
Today Microsoft announced that they will be launching a new subscription service called Xbox Game Pass. At the low price of $9.99/month, users will have unlimited access to over 100 Xbox and Xbox 360 games, allowing for a type of backward compatibility that had been unheard of on the console previously. Unlike PlayStation Now, Xbox Game Pass will allow users to download the full game, rather than having to rely on streaming. In many ways, it works similarly to a Netflix subscription for the PlayStation.
While Microsoft does caution that Xbox Game Pass may have some bugs on launch, as with all new platforms and programs, they are launching with a very impressive catalogue of fan favorite games including: Halo 5: Guardians, Saints Row IV Re-Elected, NBA 2K16, Mad Max, LEGO Batman, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Terraria, Payday 2, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Fable III, SoulCalibur II and Tekken Tag 2. All of these titles will not be part of the Xbox Insider Program.
This is a very bold move on Microsoft's behalf. It feels like a step in the right direction, as if they have listened to their users and are going to give them what they've been asking for since the Xbox One's launch. It is also a logical development in the gaming world that subscription services should creep up, giving the success of video/television streaming services from Amazon Prime to Hulu and everything in between.
On the other hand, there is the lingering question: is this too little too late? Microsoft had their chance to monopolize console gaming for this generation and they arguably lost to Sony. If not enough of their users are willing to invest in the Xbox Game Pass, then it might not matter that it is a pretty exciting idea that could really open up what the Xbox One can do.
Xbox Game Pass was made available to Xbox Insiders at 9am EST today and will be rolled out to the wider public in the spring.