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Xbox’s Game Pass obsession has changed the game

Xbox’s Game Showcase is being lauded as its best in close to a decade. More significant, is the fact that the majority of its offering is coming to Game Pass on day one. Microsoft’s vision of making gaming primarily subscription-based is finally taking hold.

Who saw that coming? My TV almost caught fire.

There were rumblings that Xbox had big plans for its Xbox Showcase 2024, which took place over the weekend, but the sheer feast we were provided took even the most senior of industry figures and miserable of critics by surprise.

Without the typical filler which has become customary of modern game conferences, Microsoft reeled off banger after banger. As a self-professed cynic and someone who’s come to expect disappointment – from Xbox in particular – I’m buzzing to say my excitement never plateaued throughout.

North of 30 announcements including a new Doom, Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, Call of Duty: Black Ops 6, Perfect Dark, Diablo IV’s expansion, Gears of War E-Day, Fable: Return to Albion, STALKER 2, and new IPs Everwild, Aetherium, and Mythbound were dropped. The show was stacked wall-to-wall and executed with purpose and slickness.

It felt like a real moment in time. Microsoft has been greedily gobbling up major development studios, publishers, and properties for years without much to show for it, but the Xbox Showcase proved to be the company’s coup de grace – a culmination of all the groundwork and billions invested for this latest ‘generation.’

The stellar showing was underpinned by one significant phrase: ‘Play it day one with Game Pass.’ As many as 20 of the titles shown ended with this message, 13 of which are coming directly from studios owned by Microsoft.

While previous jibes about Xbox’s lack of quality exclusives were valid, the company has gone to crazy lengths with its rebut. They who laugh last…

The social media frenzy in the aftermath, which has yet to settle by the way, is indicative of a watershed moment for the industry. Xbox execs have long been emphatic about subscription services being the future of gaming, but this is the first time the wheels have really been in motion in that regard.

Despite the fact that several new digital-only console variants were announced, which has been enough to headline previous outings, this showcase’s focus never wavered too far from Game Pass. The inclusion of more disc-less hardware in itself shows how confident Microsoft is in its vision.

For £12.99 a month, Xbox gamers now have the option of relying purely on Game Pass to play some of the most exciting AAA titles in the industry’s wheelhouse for the remainder of 2024 and potentially 2025. The third-party releases at full price now feel like an optional extra.

Make no mistake, despite Xbox appearing diplomatic by allowing some of its properties to roll out on PlayStation, it has laid down the gauntlet and raised the bar exponentially in terms of providing value for money. After seemingly floundering for years, finally it’s putting its financial muscle to good use.

With some of Xbox’s most visible naysayers on social media conceding that the latest showcase was a historic success, there will categorically have to be a retort from Sony and Nintendo on the subscription front.

In any case, we should all be celebrating. Provided an unforeseen hike in subscription prices isn’t in the offing, Microsoft has created a future where many more will get to enjoy the biggest and best gaming has to offer for a fraction of the retail price.

Everyone eats, even if Xbox buffs are at the head of the queue for now.