Microsoft made an interesting announcement today: Xbox Game Pass. The service, which is similar in principle to EA Access, will see you paying $9.99 per month in order to access a rotating selection of 100 games. You'll be able to download this software to your console and play it in its entirety for the duration that it remains available, and you'll even have the option to own the full game at a 20 per cent discount.
There are some caveats laid out thus far: you'll need an Xbox Live Gold account as well to take advantage of multiplayer, more or less upping the annual fee to around $170 in total. Moreover, while publishers like 2K Games and SEGA are on board, there are some notable absentees – including the aforementioned Electronic Arts, as well as Activision and Ubisoft. A new membership screen being added to the Xbox One operating system suggests that other companies may attempt to go it alone.
And this was part of Sony's reasoning behind its decision to block EA Access; at the time of the service's inception, the platform holder insinuated that it doesn't want players to have to subscribe to multiple programs beyond its own PlayStation Plus. But the reception to Microsoft's announcement has been largely positive, and the price does seem reasonable – even though it's not yet clear what the initial lineup of games will comprise.
We'd guess that the bulk of the offering will be Xbox 360 backward compatible releases, with a helping of native Xbox One titles sprinkled in; Halo 5 is one of the games shown front and centre in the announcement imagery, for example – but we'll be surprised if many recent high-profile third-party games are included as part of the subscription. We'll need to wait and see the actual selection that the Redmond manufacturer has in mind.
Either way, it does raise the question as to whether Sony should do something similar. This feels like an expanded version of the Instant Game Collection to us, the PlayStation Plus-based initiative that saw a pool of 10 or so titles available to members at any given time on the PlayStation 3. Obviously the premium platform has changed a lot over the past few years, and we've felt for a long time that it's in need of a revision again.
This is another instance where decisions last-gen are coming back to haunt the Japanese giant, though. Because of the complex nature of the CELL, it will never be able to offer PS3 backward compatibility on the PS4, and that will likely hinder the value proposition of any Xbox Game Pass-esque service it could offer of its own. PlayStation Now obviously still exists, but it's more of a future proofing project as far as we're concerned – though Microsoft's announcement does call into question the value proposition of that service as well.
Of course for as neat as the idea is, there's no guarantee that a rotating selection of games will be worth subscribing to. We're in a unique position here at Push Square where we're able to play practically everything when it's new, so a library of old games that you have to pay to access doesn't sound all that enticing to us. For people who play less or even those new to console gaming, though, the appeal is obviously there.
It's an interesting one, and it's certainly nice to see Microsoft raising questions as opposed to mimicking old PlayStation initiatives years late. It'll be interesting to see how Sony responds to this: it can't really pledge the same value without backward compatibility, and the ship on that seems to have sailed long ago. From our perspective, we reckon the manufacturer's best response would be to reinvent PlayStation Plus, perhaps bringing back that Instant Game Collection model of old.
Whatever happens, though, this move by Microsoft brings the inevitable digital future that little bit closer. And you can bet that whatever Sony does to respond, it'll have the same consequence. GameStop's shares are already down in light of this news, and they're only going to keep dropping as digital purchases become increasingly ingrained.
What do you think of this Xbox Game Pass announcement? Is it something you'd personally subscribe to? Do you think Sony should offer something similar, and how would it work? Subscribe to the comments section below and let us know.