For more of the good stuff from 2020, head here.
It’s safe to say that the entire decade of entertainment is ruled by subscription services. Spotify. Netflix. Amazon Prime. Deezer. Even Disney is in on the action with the recent SEA push of its Disney Plus streaming service. Why sell their physical catalog when they can loan out a huge range of shows and music to watch and listen to per month? Toss in a free plan that lasts a few months before convincing people to fork over their credit card details for that sweet monthly charge.
Not only did customers get to expand their range and taste in films (via recommendations and curated content), but they also save space for their devices. With the decade’s technological advances for streaming, you can worry not about saving mp3s and mp4s onto your device; just stream it and enjoy it as long as your connection is decent.
It’s so successful, that Microsoft adopted the idea but made sure it fit with their framework of entertainment. The result? Xbox Game Pass, now at 15 million subscribers and still going. While the past few years of the Game Pass has been a work-in-progress, I personally feel that it came full circle in 2020. With a huge backlog of games and the option to use the service either on your Xbox One or PC, you are basically set for life games-wise. The US$15 monthly subscription fee (along with the free subscription incentive standard with similar services) does help.
It’s figuratively and literally a buffet of games, albeit in a digital form.
Even better, a service like Xbox Game Pass also allows more eyeballs onto indie games or the B-tier titles we’ve seen a lot of in the mid-2000s and late 2000s when the Xbox 360 and PS3 were butting heads. Most people wouldn’t go out of their way to buy a game like Dead Cells and A Plague’s Tale if it wasn’t waved in front of them as a free title. Sure, there are publications and word of mouth that help with the buzz, but after a year or so has passed? People will forget about it. A service like Xbox Game Pass will occasionally headline certain older titles for a bit, or at least be a recommendation for the Game Pass owner. And there’s the “Leaving Soon” column that reminds you that you might miss out on a free game if you aren’t fast enough to catch it.
As a result, you are incentivized to try it out; if the game is not your cup of tea, move on to the next title in the 100+ games catalogue it features. If you’re hooked, congrats: you’ve found a title to keep you entertained for a few weekends or so.
No matter what, you aren’t going to be US$60 shorter. Believe me, buying multiple games fresh off the shelves, especially for “premium” titles like a first-party Nintendo game that never devalues, gets very expensive fast.
If you fear that the Game Pass only has old games up for playing, you’re wrong on that count. The Xbox Game Pass lets you play titles that came out in 2020 or at least aren’t heard of until 2020: Doom Eternal, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Yoku’s Island Express, Ikenfell, Carto, Greedfall. The list goes on.
How did it come to this? Well, it basically took a gigantic failure and a good dose of humbling to make Xbox change its literal game plan. When the Xbox One flopped in 2014 onward, the company had to pivot their course. The PlayStation was already gaining more headway with the PS4 launch and subsequent E3 showings, which is why you see a lot of console war nonsense and s***posting mostly favouring Sony’s current-gen console and its games at the time.
There’s only one major flaw to the system, at least from our neck of the woods. If you live outside of the US, Singapore (which we are covering), and Europe, you might have a tough time subscribing it unless you have means to pay for stuff online internationally. Which I’m sure a lot of savvy people here reading the site can find workarounds for. But it does sting that up to this point, Microsoft and Xbox are still not giving official love to Southeast Asian regions.
Most of the Philippines, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai market will need to resort to third-party importing to get their Xbox Game Pass fix. Maybe said parallel import/grey market numbers are more than enough; maybe there isn’t much official demand. Maybe piracy is still a sore point in the Southeast Asian region. Who knows what their reasoning is? We can say that it is a missed opportunity to not give further Southeast Asian support, especially when you use the Xbox Game Pass as an amazing starting point to get gamers on-board the Xbox brand without any fuss.
Paying a small monthly fee for a 100 games you get to play without any drawbacks whatsoever, and having it installed onto your PC/console? It sure as hell beats paying US$60 or US$70 per game. This is especially with development costs going up to the point where companies feel justified adding an extra US$10 for next-gen games when they’re the same bloody title.
Just from these methods alone, Xbox has removed barriers to entry in the gaming hardware space, as well as the one in the software space. The company’s Xbox Series is still a factor, but the bigger and more important one is the Xbox ecosystem, heavily championed by this subscription. Just like how Netflix’s name is still prevalent despite the movies & shows it houses along with its in-house productions, so too is Xbox’s service with its own in-house titles (all the Halo and Fable games, Forza) and third-party companies like, oh say, Bethesda.
Like it or not, the Xbox Game Pass is an MVP of 2020, and will be a mainstay for the Xbox Series’ future in 2021 and beyond. I for one welcome this evolution with open arms.