Having free games with Xbox Live Gold was one thing, but Microsoft wants to go one step further. The company is launching a new service called the Xbox Game Pass. It’s a library of more than 100 games that you can download and play for a monthly subscription of $9.99.
The feature isn’t live yet, but the company already announced some names so that the company can start beta testing Xbox Game Pass. Those games will be Xbox One or Xbox 360 games that work on the Xbox One thanks to backward compatibility.
These games will come from Microsoft (obviously), as well as 2K, 505 Games, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive, SEGA, SNK CORPORATION, THQ Nordic GmbH, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Some big names, such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard are clearly missing from the list. But you can expect to get Halo 5, Payday 2, NBA 2K16 and SoulCalibur II as part of this subscription (so moderately new and very old games). Some games will be available in the subscription for a limited time and eventually replaced with other games.
It’s unclear how Microsoft plans to pay the publishers of these games. Just like Spotify, Microsoft could be looking at the games you actually download and play so that Microsoft can just pay those companies. To be clear, this isn’t a streaming service — you download the games on your Xbox hard drive and launch them locally.
Xbox Live Gold will still be available, and it doesn’t look like the Xbox Game Pass includes Gold. So you’ll need both subscriptions if you want to access the library and play online games. Xbox Game Pass is launching later this spring. Xbox insiders will get a beta of the service, and Xbox Live Gold members will be able to subscribe first.
This move is interesting as Microsoft is trying to differentiate the Xbox One from the PlayStation 4. With a Spotify-like subscription, Microsoft says that video games are a service. Let’s see if gamers actually want a subscription like this. It’ll largely depend on the game library. Sony’s PlayStation Now only streams PlayStation 3 games from the cloud, so it’s not exactly the same service.
Microsoft is launching the Xbox Project Scorpio later this year, so it’s going to be an important year for Microsoft’s gaming division. With the Xbox One lagging behind when it comes to sales, Microsoft is trying new things to reverse the trend.