Xbox Game Pass – A Promising Start Xbox Game Pass is an on-demand service allowing Xbox One owners to download 100’s of select titles in Spring 2017 for $9.99 a month. Basically, it’s Netflix for gaming. And everyone, even those who don’t own an Xbox One, should be excited. Microsoft created the blueprint and is still the gold standard for online infrastructure in the gaming industry – achievements, group chat, matchmaking, demos (which they abandoned with Xbox One…), streaming and everything else we expect from a console. I anticipate they will set the pace once again with Xbox Game Pass, forcing PlayStation and Nintendo to catch up – again. Competition is good for everyone. Microsoft forced Sony to increase their online offers and because of the success Sony saw with PS Plus, Xbox owners now have Games with Gold. Even Nintendo is realizing that online is necessary…in their own weird-Nintendo way. We will see history repeat itself with the launch of Game Pass. We don’t know all the nuts-and-bolts of how everything will work but the announcement does indicate that Microsoft is creating a solid foundation: Xbox Live will not be required to access Game Pass – this is good customer service and nice not to force people only interested in Game Pass to double-dip. Games will be downloaded onto the Xbox One’s hard drive – PlayStation Now was a good experiment but is dead on arrival. PlayStation Now’s failure is partially due to a poor pricing model but mostly because of the demands of streaming games constantly. By downloading the game players don’t have to worry about lag and can have a seamless experience as if they purchased the game outright. There is no limit to the games that you can download – well your hard drive might be full if you try to download all 100+ on the first day but you don’t have to ‘return’ anything if you are interested in trying a new game. Titles will update throughout the year – based on the initial release it sounds like games will be available longer than a month with some titles rotating in and out to keep the library fresh. Microsoft is backing Game Pass by offering their marquee first-party titles such as Halo 5: Guardians – if you can play Xbox exclusives a year and a half after their initial release, that isn’t a bad deal. Ultimately, Game Pass will survive or fail on its library. Will there be enough AAA titles to make gamers feel it is worth it? Will titles rotate fast enough or will the library remain stale? Will the games available mostly be shovelware or 360 titles? How soon will games be available after release? I think fans will need to set realistic expectations. This is the first iteration of the service and will take a while to build steam (…not the Valve service…I mean momentum). Netflix has thousands of hours of entertainment, but it doesn’t interest everyone. Movies hit Blu-ray months, sometimes years, before being available through streaming. I could see many fans jumping in and out for a month when a major game drops or letting the backlog build-up and then binge on games for a session before canceling Game Pass again. Besides the quality of the library, Microsoft needs to have a solid UI in place to let people know when games are leaving Game Pass. It should be easily identified when a game is no longer available so people can time out their playthroughs and don’t feel “forced” to purchase the game in order to finish a playthrough they were enjoying. Do I think Game Pass will be perfect? No. Do I think Game pass is the first step towards a digital revolution where gaming is a monthly service instead of dropping $60 for each new release? I certainly hope so. How about you – do you think Microsoft is about to change gaming as we know it (well…not in Spring 2017 but maybe by Spring 2027) or do you think this will be Kinect and always-online all over again? Level Up, Friends!