It’s no secret that gaming is an expensive hobby; the cost of a console puts you hundreds of dollars in the hole, with each subsequent game costing another chunk of change – not to mention any DLC or microtransactions you throw on top of that … and don’t even get me started on the accessories and extra hard drive space you’ll inevitably want! However, the latest trend in gaming could be even more disheartening for those barely able to support their gaming habit as it is: A bevy of next-gen titles (including Demon’s Souls, Destruction AllStars, NBA 2K21, Godfall) have been listed for $70, suggesting that the upcoming generation could be even more expensive than the current one.
In the face of higher individual game prices converging with expensive new hardware, Xbox’s subscription service, Game Pass, could be the average gamer’s weapon of choice when combating the pricey reality of the hobby. The service, which grants you access to more than 100 games on Xbox or PC, sets you back $15 a month (or $180 for the annual subscription). While it doesn’t include every new game, players get access to a huge backlog of titles across every generation of Xbox, plus most of them are available to stream to Android devices through the cloud.
With games continuing to rise in price, a fixed-price subscription service grants you the ability to save money. While many games are making the jump to $70 each, a Game Pass Ultimate subscription (at $180 per year) effectively pays for itself after you play three triple-A games. Thankfully, it also includes beloved indie titles; I would have never tried games like Lonely Mountains: Downhill, Slay the Spire, or Undermine if I wasn’t a subscriber to Game Pass Ultimate. It’s a strong value both from the perspective of saving money on new releases and as a means to discover new games.
Even Xbox loves the opportunities that Game Pass provides developers and players, giving them both the ability to try new things with minimal penalty. “You can have games that can just be games because they live inside of a subscription that has a good business model,” head of Xbox Phil Spencer told me in November. “It’s just an evolving financial model for where risk lives.”
Sure, if you stick strictly to the offerings on Game Pass for your gaming needs, you miss out on some of the biggest titles (there’s usually a pretty big buffer for third-party triple-A games to arrive on the service, if they come at all), but if you want a deep, varied collection of games to sample and potentially play for hours upon hours, Game Pass is an incredible value. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve downloaded on a whim, only to fall in love with them. Similarly, I’ve downloaded games I thought I would like, only to realize I didn’t. Thankfully, that cost me absolutely nothing extra (aside from wasted data toward my cap – thanks Comcast).
EA Play’s inclusion delivers a whole new suite of titles to the service this November
On top of that, several major games from Xbox Game Studios are on there day one. The service gave me Gears 5 and The Outer Worlds when they came out last year, and when Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Wasteland 3 launched this year, I simply clicked the download button in the Game Pass section of my library. To add to the value, Xbox has acquired a ton of developers to increase the output and quality of its first-party offerings, including studios like Ninja Theory, Bethesda, Obsidian, and more. With every game from those developers, plus the fact that when Halo: Infinite launches, I’ll also get that for no additional charge, the service continues to prove its value.
My big hesitation going in was the massive subscription fatigue I’m already suffering from. With subscriptions to Xbox Live Gold, PlayStation Plus, and Nintendo Switch Online, not to mention other services like Apple Music, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus, I wanted to avoid additional recurring charges on my credit card at all cost. Thankfully, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate consolidates several subscriptions into one by giving you Game Pass for PC, as well as EA Play (starting this November) under the same umbrella, while also automatically delivering all the benefits of Xbox Live Gold. Sure, it’s more expensive, but the value is undeniable, so I was glad I could easily convert my Xbox Live Gold subscription to a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.
PlayStation Plus Collection will deliver some of the best PS4 games to your PS5
If you’re more of a PlayStation gamer, you have a couple of options, but they aren’t quite as good as Xbox’s service. The recently announced PlayStation Plus Collection on PS5 provides subscribers to PlayStation Plus a collection of around 20 downloadable PS4 titles at no additional cost. While the list includes some of the best titles of the PlayStation 4 generation, you won’t get the biggest new games. However, with no additional cost to PlayStation Plus subscribers, it’s difficult to complain about. The other option is PlayStation Now, but with fewer new titles and higher turnover in the games offered, plus an emphasis on streaming over downloading (only select PS4 games are available for download onto PS4, and you can’t download any games on PS3 or PC), it’s not quite the value Game Pass is. The closest thing Nintendo offers is the limited library of classic NES and SNES games to subscribers of Nintendo Switch Online.
While Xbox Game Pass isn’t a one-stop shop for all your gaming needs, it does provide incredible value at a time when money could be tight and games are demanding a large chunk of your checking account. With so many great games already on the service, and many more still to come thanks to upcoming Xbox Game Studios titles, Bethesda’s library, and EA Play, it’s hard to ignore what Xbox Game Pass brings to the table.
For more on Xbox’s next-gen philosophy and how Game Pass fits into that, check out my conversation with the leadership team from last November.