Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass promises access to over 100 games for a $10 per month subscription fee. Microsoft wants Xbox Game Pass to be the “Netflix of video games”—but is it really worth it?
Update: We originally reviewed Xbox Game Pass in 2017 and found it a little lacking. But, at the end of 2019, Xbox Game Pass now offers a more compelling library of games to play. Check out the current games list. Some new games, like The Outer Worlds, have even been added to Xbox Game Pass at release. Beyond that, Xbox Game Pass is now available for Windows 10 PCs, although the library of games available on PC is different.
What Is Xbox Game Pass?
Xbox Game Pass gives you unlimited access to a game library for one monthly fee. Rather than paying for each game you want to play, you pay $10 per month for unlimited access to a catalog of games. You can play these games all you like. There’s also a fourteen-day free trial to get you started.
Unlike Sony’s PlayStation Now, which streams games over the Internet, Xbox Game Pass isn’t doing anything too unconventional. Paying the subscription fee allows you to download games to your Xbox One and play them like you would any other game you purchased from the Xbox Store.
This service requires an Xbox One. Microsoft may one day extend Xbox Game Pass to Windows 10 PCs, but that hasn’t happened yet. While it does incorporate Xbox 360 games, those games can only be played in backwards compatibility mode on an Xbox One—not on an Xbox 360.
Note that Xbox Game Pass is separate from Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft’s subscription service that enables online multiplayer gameplay, allows access to game deals, and offers free games every month. You can use Xbox Game Pass without paying for Xbox Live Gold. However, if a game available via Xbox Game Pass has online multiplayer features, you can only play multiplayer if you’re also paying for Xbox Live Gold.
How Many Games Are Available?
So Xbox Game Pass is pretty simple: For $10 per month, you get access to a catalog of games and you can download and play them all you want on your Xbox One.
What makes or breaks a service like this is the selection of games. As of July 12, 2017, there are 119 games available in the catalog. They aren’t all Xbox One games. In fact, the majority of them are Xbox 360 games that you can play on your Xbox One through the backwards compatibility feature.
You will see some big-name games here. You’ll find five games from the Gears of War series, Halo 5: Guardians, all three BioShock games, NBA 2K16, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, and more. But the list is rounded out with older Xbox 360 games and smaller indie games. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, but you certainly aren’t getting all the latest full-price Xbox One games. You can view the full list of Xbox Game Pass games on Microsoft’s website. Microsoft adds new games every month.
Remember, You’ll Have to Download Them First
There’s one major way this experience doesn’t compare to Netflix or even Sony’s PlayStation Now. While both Netflix and PlayStation Now allow you to start streaming a video or game immediately, Xbox Game Pass requires you download a game to your Xbox One before you play it.
For example, BioShock Infinite, which is 13 GB in size, took nearly an hour to download on our fairly speedy Internet connection.
If you plan on sticking with a game, that’s good news. You’ll have better performance with the game installed on your Xbox One. But you can’t just sit down and flip through a few games, trying each for a few minutes and seeing what you like. You’ll need to download each game in full before you play it.
That’s fine, really—it’s the standard experience with Xbox One games, after all. Just don’t expect anything else. How long you have to wait before playing a game will depend on the speed of your Internet connection.
Once a game is installed, you can play it all you like. If your Xbox Game Pass subscription expires, the game will remain installed, but you won’t be able to play it until you either resubscribe or purchase the game. You don’t get to keep games you download via Xbox Game Pass—you lose access to them when your subscription stops.
So, Is It Worth It?
Whether Xbox Game Pass is worth it is a tough question. If you have a lot of time and want to play a lot of games, you’ll get a month of access to over 100 games for $10, and that’s quite the deal.
The limiting factor, of course, is time. How many of those games do you really want to play, and how fast will you play them?
The real issue here is that Xbox Game Pass largely gives you access to older games. You can often pick up used copies of these older games for very low prices, so that $10 a month may not be quite as awesome as it seems.
Let’s say you’re interested in the BioShock series, all three games of which are available on the $10 per month Xbox Game Pass. A quick glance at eBay reveals you can currently buy the Xbox 360 version of BioShock Infinite for $4.59 with free shipping on eBay. So, if finishing the game will take you a few weeks, it’s less expensive to simply buy a used copy and play it at your leisure. On the other hand, if you plan on tearing through BioShock Infinite in just a few days and moving on to a new game, Xbox Game Pass looks like a great value.
Be sure to consider which games you actually want to play and decide whether it’s a better deal to buy them separately, considering how much time you have for games. Personally, considering how much time I have for games these days, I know Xbox Game Pass is a worse deal than simply buying the games I want to play. I’m not sold, myself.
But you can try Xbox Game Pass for yourself thanks to that fourteen day free trial. If nothing else, it’ll let you play some games for free for two weeks.
Just be sure to cancel the free trial before the fourteen days are up if you don’t want to keep it. If you forget, Microsoft will begin charging you $10 per month until you remember to cancel. You can view and cancel this subscription on your Microsoft account’s Services & subscriptions page, if you like.