Microsoft's Xbox Games Pass subscription service to launch with 100+ games
Microsoft has announced Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that gives gamers access to a library of over 100 Xbox One and backward compatible Xbox 360 games. New titles will cycle into the catalog every month, and those that catch a player's attention can be downloaded to their Xbox One console. There are a couple of restrictions that mean you don't exactly "own" them, but they can be bought at a discount if so desired.
The full list of games hasn't been announced, but some of the examples Microsoft has name-dropped so far include Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, Lego Batman and the Xbox One remaster of the original Gears of War. Publishers like 2K, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Warner Bros and Sega are lined up to release their games on the service, and Microsoft says every month new games will cycle in (and occasionally out).
Given the backlash that followed the original DRM system when the console was first unveiled back in 2013, Microsoft obviously knows not to rely on streaming, so users will need to download the games they want to their Xbox One before they can play. Aside from the hard drive space on your console (or external HDD), there's apparently no limit to how many games can be downloaded.
Downloaded titles can only be played offline for 30 days before the console needs to check back in online. That seems like the shadow of that original DRM creeping in, but it seems to be designed to keep players from absconding with games that have cycled out of the "active" library, or downloading heaps in the first month then not renewing the subscription.
If you do want to keep a game permanently, it can be purchased at a 20 percent discount from the digital store, while any DLC is available for 10 percent off.
The Xbox Game Pass is similar to EA Access and Sony's PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, which gives gamers access to a catalog of 450 PS3 games on their PS4 console or a Windows PC. (Sony recently announced it would discontinue the service for PS3, PS Vita, PS TV, some Sony Bravia televisions, Sony Blu-ray players and all Samsung TVs in August.)
At US$10 a month, the Xbox Game Pass is decent value and is half the price of PS Now for a monthly subscription. It still works out cheaper than a three-month PS Now subscription, which costs $45 and will be available in a greater number of countries.
From today, some of those people in the Xbox Insider Program can be the first to test the Xbox Game Pass, with a very limited selection of titles, before the system is extended to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. It should also be noted that an Xbox Live Gold subscription isn't required to play any of the games included in the Game Pass catalog, but will be necessary for any multiplayer features. The service will be launch to general users in 27 markets in Q2 2017, with other markets due to be added later.