Microsoft Takes Aim At PlayStation Now With Netflix-Like Xbox Game Pass – Forbes

Photo: Microsoft

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft has just rolled out an attractive new subscription service called “Xbox Game Pass” that may be the most “Netflix for video games”-like entry to date. It’s a $9.99 per month subscription that gives players access to 100+ Xbox One/Xbox 360 games, a list that will expand and change over time.

The most obvious comparison is to Sony’s PlayStation Now, where players have been able to rent individual games, or subscribe to the service and get access to a roster of free games instead. But there are a number of differences that make Xbox’s version more attractive.

First is that it’s just a flat subscription, with apparently less confusion about what you can only rent individually or what you can buy outright. With Xbox Game Pass, while games will cycle in and out of the rotation, you can purchase them to add them to your library permanently at a discounted price if they’re in the catalog.

The second major difference is that PS Now is a streaming service, which makes it more Netflix-y perhaps, but with Xbox Game Pass, you can actually download these games directly to your hard drive. Cloud/streaming-based gaming has not exactly caught on yet, and internet/bandwidth issues can cause problems for players trying to stream games. Sony has sort of made it work with Now, but other would-be competitors like OnLive have folded entirely trying to bring the idea to the mainstream. Here, Microsoft is just sticking with what works, letting players download these games directly which bypass all of those issues (though RIP data caps).

It’s been hard to keep track of PS Now pricing, but at one point it went on sale for $100 a year, though now I believe it’s $20 a month to access to all streaming titles. At $10 a month, Xbox Game Pass is half the price, but with a more limited selection so far (100 games vs ~450 on Now).

Photo: 343

Photo: 343

Among the games that will appear on Xbox Game Pass in its initial run are the likes of Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16 and SoulCalibur II, to give you a sense of the range of the offerings. It’s not clear how often these games will rotate out, and if any will be permanent fixtures. Xbox Game Pass will be tested first by Xbox Insiders, and Xbox Live Gold members will have access to it first when it launches later this spring.

All of this sounds pretty attractive to me. Combining a simplified model where it’s just one, relatively cheap subscription for a set collection of games is progress, and the ability to actually download these games straight to your hard drive is a better system than what we’ve seen with these streaming services, in my estimation. Microsoft has always raked in cash from Xbox Live Gold, and I’m pretty sure that they’re going to hook a lot of people with Xbox Game Pass, depending on the library they provide.

More to come, but at least on the surface, this seems like very solid idea indeed.

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