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Xbox Game Pass needs a delivery from Santa Clause

Microsoft’s game subscription service has had a good year, but it could do with a bit of buzz around the holidays.

A green and red Xbox controller sits in a Christmas tree, all colours fading away as it moves across the image.
Image credit: VG247 / Xbox

I’ve talked previously about how amazing it would have been as a child to have Xbox Game Pass – like you’ve won the video game lottery. I think the service is great and is both a great value offering and a brilliant way to simplify the video game landscape. So, when I say that I think Xbox Game Pass needs a little shot in the arm this holiday season, it comes from a place of love.

Xbox Game Pass in 2023 has been pretty great. We've had a steady stream of quality additions to the library, both big and small - stunners, like the largely overlooked puzzle game gem, Cocoon; Sea of Stars, the indie throw-back RPG; and Jusant, the beautiful rock-climbing game that is wise not to outstay its welcome (something a lot of games could learn from).

That trio is the tip of what’s been a tip top year to date, so why am I feeling a little less than excited about Game Pass at the moment? I think a lot comes down to the... whisper it... exclusive first-party line-up. This term feels rather dated now, given only Nintendo keeps its own console titles exclusively on its own hardware, but in hearts and minds it really matters. Without wanting to summon the haters (I’m going to whisper this in even more hushed tones), the Xbox exclusive line-up this year has been a tad underwhelming. Shockedface.gif!

Some characters exploring in Redfall.
Are you ever going to go back to Redfall? | Image credit: VG247/Bethesda

Redfall, from one of the most loved and respected development studios around, was a big swing and a miss. Support has been pledged to sort it out, but the damage has been done with that one. Forza Motorsport, years and years in the making, is fine, I enjoyed it, but it launched rather short on content and had numerous issues. Starfield, could and perhaps should have been a generational moment for the industry... but it wasn’t. HiFi Rush, the surprise game, is by far the best of the bunch, and it’s what Xbox needs more of.

For Xbox Game Pass to really succeed this holiday, it needs to offer more than good games. It needs to create moments. The kind of memories you look back on in 10 years, like how I look back on the time me and my brother got Street Fighter 2 on Mega Drive, along with two six-button controllers. It was incredible. How does Xbox manage this? It’s all about the surprise factor.

What if Xbox nabs the Xbox release of Baldur's Gate 3 as a day one release on Game Pass? And maybe gets the PC version, too? That would be a big moment, for sure. A December/Christmas miracle. I know Microsoft has said Activision Blizzard titles aren’t coming to Game Pass until next year, but you can’t always believe what big companies say. Drop a load of Crash and Spyro games mid-December? Why not... the kids (big ones, too) would love it.

Like I’ve said, I love Game Pass and I honestly think the line-up of new titles this year has been great (and the entire catalogue is full of brilliant games), but as we near the magical season, where wishes are made and dreams come true (bit saccharine, but go with it), Xbox would do well to embrace it. Give people a bit of Xbox cheer and we’ll remember it forever.


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