Ori, Halo, Hitman, Gears, Doom, Forza… Despite the more than tempting offer, I think Xbox Game Pass is not for me.
A story about perspective
This article is an opinion piece, it is subjective in nature. The author’s opinion is personal and is not representative of the rest of JV’s editorial staff.
There is no need to introduce Xbox Game Pass anymore. Microsoft’s subscription service that provides access to a catalog of more than 300 games (on Xbox consoles and PC) has established itself as an industry staple in a handful of years. Today, any self-respecting regular gamer almost needs to subscribe to the service. And truth be told, there was a time not too long ago when I dreamed of something like Xbox Game Pass. Young student on a tight budget (and a bit stingy around the edges) but with almost unlimited time, the idea of paying a little to be able to play was very little like the idea of paradise. Yes, but that’s the way it is, no powerful enough PC available or Xbox consoles. So I rather choose long games, which certainly paid a high price, but which I could spend well over a hundred hours on without problems. An investment that paid off really well, but which got me used to a very special way of consuming video games. And then time passed. The active life began and with it an influx of money larger than my small wallet at the time. I quickly bought a computer that lasts. The perfect opportunity to finally fall for this offer, which has continued to improve over time. What was my disappointment to see that the object of my desire had become totally opposed to my habits as a player.
The most profitable game
I’m not reinventing the wheel by saying this, but if there’s one game that has an almost unlimited lifespan beyond multiplayer titles, it’s The Witcher 3. This open world fantasy simply ticks all the boxes. Rich, good, very well made, gripping… The Witcher 3 is a classic, a monument to the world of video games. You can therefore perfect your culture while at the same time getting value for money. The game that was released seven years ago, you can easily get it (with its DLC) for less than 20 euros. An accessible must-have that offers almost a hundred hours of gameplay, what do people want?
Xbox Game Pass: a bulimia of games
Recently, you will understand, I subscribed to Xbox Game Pass … or rather, I activated a free code. Before going on holiday, I therefore had a month to make the most of my non-investment. Perhaps some will begin to see the problem pointed at the tip of the nose. Because when, like me, we tend to want to make everything profitable, we then seek to make the most of the proposed catalog by linking the games together in an almost bulimic fashion. In a couple of weeks I devoured a good ten games. What a golden opportunity, barely a euro per game if I had actually paid this month out of my own pocket! Even during the big Steam sale, you can’t do better. Yes, but now, if a few years ago I had time to enjoy these games fully and calmly, it is no longer the case today.
Active life is not only the advantage of an inflow of money, it is also less time for leisure. And then of course there’s paperwork, cleaning, shopping and even other hobbies that mean I don’t have as much time to spend on games as I used to. In this context, it is still possible to swallow a large number of games (the proof I did), but at what cost? Jumping from one game to another without taking the time to enjoy it, already thinking about the next one before finishing the current one… I definitely made these games, but did I really like them? In the end, I will come out of these few weeks with only one wish: relaunch a large open world and get lost in it for hours and months.
All these open worlds that many players find too full for nothing, that’s where I enjoy the most. Admittedly, I am sometimes in love with much shorter independent productions (like Endling, which we presented to you a short time ago), but my thing is above all Assassin’s Creed, Horizon or The Witcher. Some of them are present in Game Pass you will tell me, and €9.99 (or €12.99) is not expensive to pay to have access to them for a month. But it’s stronger than me, seeing this thick catalog and not being able to take full advantage of it frustrates me to the highest degree. The dilemma is therefore the following: enjoy the chain of lots of small experiences or devote all this time to a single game outside of Game Pass?
Too many games kill the game
As practical as it is, Xbox Game Pass is changing the way we consume video games, which Tiraxa shared with us a few months ago. Like her, many of them have adopted new habits as gamers and given themselves the right to test more games. According to statistics shared by Xbox at the last Game Developers Conference, Game Pass subscribers play 40% more titles than non-Game Pass subscribers. But it would also be interesting to see how many of them finish all these games. Because that’s the problem. Faced with the abundance of options and the impossibility of making a final choice, we find ourselves hacking here and there without ever seeing the end of the games we launch, or devouring everything at once, at the risk of facing too much information (or information shy according to sociologist Edgar Morin).
Let’s take the head of ongoing information. All day long they bombard us with information that is sometimes extremely serious. With power, this hype can really have detrimental effects on our intellectual abilities (exhaustion, disengagement, attention deficit, memory loss, etc.). If the name information overload is mainly aimed at the area of information and communication, the mentioned effects still remind me of my few weeks spent exploiting Game Pass as much as possible.
As I linked the games to the chain, I found myself unable to go back to what might have made me feel or feel fully invested. Overwhelmed by the different universes, mechanics and stories that overlapped in this short period of time, I don’t get much out of my hours spent playing and I can hardly name all the games I have tried. I applaud anyone who manages to take advantage of Game Pass without falling into this unhealthy overuse, because it’s obviously not my business…
We may rightly wonder if we are working with information and communication technologies instead of liberating ourselves – but wasn’t that the original promise? -, did not definitively throw us back into the industrial era of assembly line work
Caroline Sauvajol-Rialland, “Right to disconnect: inventing a new model of governance”
Bad for the industry?
Xbox Game Pass is definitely a very good plan, but it’s not for every gamer, or even for the industry in general. It was the former president of Xbox, Ed Fries, who was concerned about the impact such an offer could have on the industry:
Game Pass scares me. Because there is a similar thing called Spotify that was created for the music market. And when Spotify took off, it destroyed the music market. It has literally cut the annual income of the music industry in half and people are not buying songs anymore. We must therefore be careful not to create the same system in the gaming sector.
While Xbox figures show that Game Pass subscribers are indeed continuing to spend on games and other add-ons, it is still difficult to reach a firm conclusion about the economic consequences of such an offer. Personally, I love being able to buy my games today, both to support creators (especially indie) and to get my own game. I appreciate having this library that I can revisit when the mood takes me or share with friends as I please. A practice that is increasingly being lost, to my dismay, although I understand the interest in investing in this kind of service instead.
What really worries me, it’s that in order to develop such an aura, Xbox Game Pass risks crushing the games that aren’t there, and in particular the indie games. Yes, we know Microsoft’s service already offers a wide variety of indie experiences on its service, and that’s very good. But what about the others? Will it be possible to see them thrive in the future, or will they be rendered invisible by the power of the Game Pass catalog (more likely PlayStation Plus)? Just as some have gotten used to only considering watching a certain series or movie if it’s on Netflix, gamers may well look no further than their already well-stocked catalog. This is why it has become a real challenge for independent studios to be part of Xbox Game Pass who sometimes engage in lengthy discussions to hope to find a small spot for their game on the Microsoft catalog.
So yes, as many indie developers have claimed, Game Pass is an incredible boon for them. But be careful that in time he does not also become their most terrible competitor. Even if I didn’t really need it, it’s another argument for preferring to buy my games at full price and finding my previous spending, more reasoned and passionate.