Xbox Game Preview program: Everything you need to know

Xbox One S
Xbox One S (Image credit: Windows Central)

Video game distribution continues to change in the digital age, with developers building on their titles beyond the initial release. While post-launch content and monetization schemes are dominating the industry following this shift, this also allows developers to improve upon the experience first delivered. In some cases, the means studios can even sell titles ahead of release, completing the title through updates over the months, or even years, ahead.

This is where Xbox Game Preview comes in – Microsoft's solution for distributing in-progress titles over Xbox Live. Here's everything you need to know, and how to get started titles in preview.

What is Xbox Game Preview?

Xbox Game Preview is a program offered by Microsoft, which allows creators to publish their Xbox One and Windows 10 titles while still in development. Over time, developers with games in the program are expected to deliver regular content updates, with the eventual goal of releasing as a full-fledged title.

Sharing traits with equivalent programs on rival platforms, such as Steam Early Access, this allows games to get into the hands of the public faster and evolve on player feedback. However, these systems aren't perfect – programs like Game Preview have come under fire in the past for giving developers a chance to sell games without providing a complete product. Many of the titles in Game Preview aren't held to the same quality standards as full releases, with bugs and issues more frequent. Furthermore, content can be lacking during early days in the program.

Playing Xbox Game Preview titles

Despite being acknowledged as a work in progress, Game Preview titles are still distributed via the Microsoft Store alongside the remainder of its curated library. These are clearly marked in the store with "Game Preview" on the cover art and listing title.

Microsoft allows developers to charge when in the Game Preview program, although usually at a discount until the official release. However, all Game Preview titles have a free trial available, which grants one hour of gameplay before a purchase. This provides a chance to ensure players are comfortable investing in a game, without worries of major gameplay or technical issues. After completing the trial period, all progress transfers to a purchased copy.

Xbox Game Preview titles can be found on Xbox One under a special category of the Microsoft Store. On Windows 10 the Microsoft Store doesn't offer the same curated section, meaning titles must be found in the "Xbox" section. Most Game Preview games on Xbox One and Windows 10 also offer Play Anywhere support, with cross-platform purchasing, saves and multiplayer.

Restrictions on Game Preview titles


Astroneer (Image credit: System Era Softworks)

Microsoft has attempted to combat the stigma associated with pre-release titles by implementing tighter restrictions than many competitors. Xbox Game Preview titles see a tight certification process to debut through the program and provide future updates. With only a small handful of titles today, Microsoft delivers a level of curation not seen on many other "Early Access" services.

Once accepted into the program, few restrictions are imposed on Game Preview titles. Gameplay obviously must abide by various content guidelines and pass the certification process, but otherwise, developers are given a fair amount of freedom. This gives more flexibility to developers than traditional full-scale release, while still being bound to the Microsoft Store.

Many games first hit Xbox Game Preview without support for achievements and other Xbox Live feature, though games in the past have been known to implement them at a later date. Similarly, downloadable content packs can also be released for games through Game Preview, though is uncommon to see.

Xbox Game Preview titles

Since the debut of Xbox Game Preview back in 2015, a stronger selection of titles has embraced the program. Games of varying scales and genres are in development today, with ten games currently available in preview. These are all the games available through Xbox Game Preview and their respective platforms.

Xbox Game Preview has also helped the development and launch of many Xbox One games, which are now available as full titles on the Microsoft Store. Elite: Dangerous, ARK: Survival Evolved and The Long Dark are all products of Xbox Game Preview. Several titles have also been announced for Game Preview in the months ahead, as listed below.

  • Deep Rock Galactic
  • Wreckfest
  • Session
  • Claybook
  • DayZ
  • Descenders

We'll be sure to update this list going forward, as new titles enter and leave Xbox Game Preview.

Xbox Game Preview is a promising program on Xbox One and Windows 10, giving developers another route for building and delivering their services. Serving up an option for games to hit the Microsoft Store ahead of launch delivers benefits to both consumers and developers, shipping early access to games with a flow of real-world feedback. What are your thoughts on Xbox Game Preview? Make sure to drop them in the comments section below.

Updated February 15, 2017: Updated with DayZ, coming soon to Xbox Game Preview.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.