Playing video games counts among the best methods to spend your time, and millions do exactly that every day. Decades of tireless innovation involving countless talented creators and teams with artistic visions only limited by the technology with which we have to work have led us to now — it has never been easier, or more fun, to enjoy everything video games have to offer than right now.
For many, Xbox Game Pass plays a huge role in making video games more accessible and more approachable, granting access to hundreds of high-quality titles across a range of devices with a single monthly subscription. Microsoft's still-unique gaming subscription service is an undeniable success and has garnered plenty of praise. Still, there are naysayers committed to the narrative that Xbox Game Pass ultimately hurts the video game industry as a whole.
My personal journey through video games, and my experience with Xbox Game Pass, tell an entirely different story; I'm playing more games than ever before, and I have Xbox Game Pass to thank for that.
The value proposition
The premise of Xbox Game Pass, PC Game Pass, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is simple: lower the barrier of entry for gaming and give subscribers access to a vast library of games without charging a fortune. Beyond making gaming more approachable and delivering incredible value, however, it's actually that catalog of titles that has carried the Xbox Game Pass suite from success to success, and it continues to improve over time.
The Xbox Game Pass library can appeal to practically any type of gamer, as every genre of video games is represented by present titles — casual family-friendly games and adorable, beautifully presented indie stories; gorgeous, skill-driven platformers and mind-bending puzzle-adventures; action-packed journeys through intricate, foreboding worlds and epic romps through fantasy universes; intense first-person shooters and meticulously detailed sports games; all of this and beyond are available to play through Game Pass.
Quality is present, as well, with many of the best Xbox Game Pass games easily earning titles as some of the best games in general. All of Microsoft's first-party Xbox Game Studios titles launch day-and-date into Xbox Game Pass alongside major third-party arrivals, and the general Game Pass library constantly expands, with new additions all the time.
Unrestricted access to so many amazing games, new and old, indie and "AAA" — with only a single monthly expense barring the gate — has allowed Xbox Game Pass to establish itself as one of the best values in the industry. Game Pass also provides discounts on all included games and game DLC, exclusive perks and access to sales, and more, extending the savings beyond access to the games.
Above all else, though, Xbox Game Pass simply values the joy of playing video games.
The joy of playing
Purchasing a video game to play partially operates on faith that you'll actually enjoy the game (even if you were already excited about it), and the prices of video games often limit the number of titles you can buy (and therefore how much you can play). The arrival of Xbox Game Pass alleviates both of these concerns, and returns the focus back to "playing" instead of "buying."
Rather than a constant dance of participation in the industry's necessary monetization process, subscription services like Xbox Game Pass take the pressure away from you and lets you simply enjoy the games you're playing. There's no need to constantly evaluate whether the game you're playing is worth what you paid; instead, you can consider whether the game is worth purchasing (at a discount) after you've played it, and if you desire to add it to your permanent digital library. Before that point, all that matters is how much fun you're having while playing the game.
This shift of focus actively encourages players to try games they otherwise may never have played, as Xbox Game Pass gives you no-risk access to those titles at no additional cost. Games that may not elicit immediate excitement before playing, or didn't garner wide enough hype to attract your attention, can still become beloved experiences thanks to Xbox Game Pass. There are plenty of hidden gems on Xbox Game Pass that now enjoy greatly increased player bases thanks to the ease of access afforded by Game Pass.
We can't forget the countless tales of success with games finding new audiences through Xbox Game Pass, as great titles included through the service are exposed to additional players, which leads to increased word-of-mouth marketing due to these players talking about the games they're playing. Incredible games are often overlooked simply because people aren't seeing the game or aren't being convinced the game is worth purchasing to play; Xbox Game Pass can provide visibility and eliminate the cost of entry.
All of this reflects my own personal experience with Xbox Game Pass, which has dramatically altered the way I play video games.
My year in Game Pass
My tendency to become burned out on, and consequently abandon, new hobbies and activities ludicrously quickly, combined with limited funds with which to finance new hobbies, used to mean I rarely finished the games I started playing and was unable to justify frequent game purchases. Instead, I alternated between investing time into the same handful of franchises, like Halo, Call of Duty, and Minecraft, and months-long periods in which I didn't play video games at all.
Acquired knowledge and healthier mechanisms for managing my neurodivergency have greatly aided my propensity toward burnout, but it is Xbox Game Pass that has salvaged my love for video games and kept that passion burning strong for the last few years.
Since I began to play video games with the intention of finishing the titles I love, I have completed 50 games and played many more. Franchises that carried me through my childhood, like Halo, spearheaded this venture at first, but Xbox Game Pass has continued to breathe new life into my love for video games and kept me both interested and excited ever since. As of this point in 2022, I have already started and completed 15 games, a dozen (or 13, if you count CrossfireX) of which were available through Xbox Game Pass.
The Xbox Game Pass titles I have played in 2022 spanned numerous genres and categories, including, but not limited to:
- "AAA" titles like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and NieR:Automata
- Indie gems like Outer Wilds, Unpacking, Undertale, and Kentucky Route Zero
- Aging Xbox exclusives like Ryse: Son of Rome and Quantum Break
- Excellent "AA" entries like A Plague Tale: Innocence
This list doesn't even include all of the games I've completed in 2022 using Xbox Game Pass, let alone the ones that I've simply played, like Sea of Thieves (which doesn't really have an "end"). It also doesn't include the more than 35 games I have installed on my Xbox Series X that I want to play or complete, the majority of which I discovered and installed using Xbox Game Pass.
If I truly fall in love with a video game after I complete it on Xbox Game Pass, I'll strongly consider purchasing it to add to my growing digital library. I bought several of the games I played this year, and I currently have 10 games on my Microsoft Store wish list that I initially played on Xbox Game Pass and intend to purchase in the future. The end result? I'm playing more games, I'm buying more games, and I'm not burning out before the finish line, all of which I can attribute to Xbox Game Pass.
The end result
The Game Pass suite of services, which includes Xbox Game Pass, PC Game Pass, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and the all-inclusive Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, has increasingly contributed to Xbox's continued success. It has driven a shift in how people consume video game media, and has directly translated to overwhelmingly positive outcomes for developers, publishers, and, most importantly, the end consumer (that's us!).
Xbox Game Pass has been influential enough that it has inspired changes in strategy from competitors, like Sony's newly reorganized PlayStation Plus, and Microsoft is just getting started. The company is reportedly investigating a family plan for Xbox Game Pass, continues to expand the services into new regions, and is perpetually adding new games, features, and perks for subscribers.
At the end of the day, though, none of that matters as much as this simple truth: Xbox Game Pass is about video games. It encourages us to play more games, even titles we never would've played otherwise, and it gives talented developers another great platform on which to publish their games and (hopefully) reach the audience they deserve.
Xbox Game Pass helps to expand our gaming horizons and find new, fantastic experiences, and makes it easier to spend money on the games we know we love, rather than the titles we hope will be "worth" the price tag. At least, that's what it has done for me.
A catalog of games
All your gaming needs, in one subscription
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is truly the "ultimate" gaming subscription, combining Xbox and PC Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold, and Xbox Cloud Gaming into one service. With XGPU, players have access to hundreds of the best games across a wide variety of devices, including Xbox, PC, Android, and iOS.
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.