If you’ve read my articles before you’ll know I usually swing for PlayStation. I’ve been in that ecosystem so long it’s my first stop for most multi-platform game releases. Steam usually follows up as a close second for smaller titles; especially if there’s a sale on. This year though I’ve been dropping into Microsoft’s camp and doing so through Game Pass. I do not have an Xbox. I do have a reasonable PC though and at one time I had a shiny £1 (obviously a digital version) to spend on the first month of GPPC.
Xbox Game Pass for PC has been around, in beta, for a little over a year but I’ve only been using it since March (2020). It wasn’t it’s beta form or any sense of loyalty to Steam or console gaming and the PlayStation brand stopping me from making the jump sooner. I was waiting. Waiting for a game I really wanted to play to sign up to the service. That game was Ori and the Will of the Wisps; more on that title later. After some time with Ori the app generally sat unopened on my machine, ignored for the free games on Epic Store or the occasional press code I was passed to claim on Steam. I would open the app perhaps twice a month to check out the new releases. I’d install a game and play a really small amount of it before deciding I wasn’t in the mood and never returning. Some of the bigger games this year, the PlayStation exclusives, have kept me away from my PC too. Through word of mouth both from friends and the never-ending spew of thoughts and comments that is twitter, I’ve kept up a little better on releases to GPPC that I know I’ll play. I haven’t needed to jump on the application as much because of this and I think that is slightly detrimental. There’s less discoverability when I’m not reminded to browse the library of available games.
As the PC version of Game Pass comes out of its Beta phase and into a full release I was a little annoyed at the price rise which doubled the cost from £3.99 to £7.99. I’m not against a price rise. I think £3.99 was amazing value for the available games. £7.99 feels a little steep, but then I haven’t jumped into the first-party games Microsoft have added to the service on a day one release; which I think is a huge selling point for them. Mostly I’ve been playing smaller titles, indie games which would probably have found their way into my Steam library a few months or a year after their release. Games like Spiritfarer and Carrion, which are both currently in my top ten games this year, would have been wishlisted. I would have waited for a sale, probably, before I purchased and played them. GPPC has allowed me to have some amazing experiences and I have, so far, spent under £30 on the subscription for 4 games I’ve had a reasonable playtime with; Spiritfarer, Carrion, Phoenix Point and Tell Me Why. I would struggle to justify the £7.99, or the £55 over these 7 months for those titles.
Two recent announcements, in my mind, have shed some light on why the price has risen. The first announcement of EA Play joining the service was a surprise. It’s perhaps not one aimed at me but to those who already pay for EA Play and can have a wider reach of games by switching to GPPC. I’ll dip into the small offering of shorter and arty titles available through EA, even perhaps some of their back catalogue like Mirror’s Edge which I haven’t played. I doubt I’ll be jumping into Battlefield or their sports titles as I haven’t played those for years. The new Star Wars game has me interested but if EA play isn’t coming to Game Pass until the ‘holiday’ then I’ll likely already have played it.
Like everyone else floating in the gaming space, you will have probably seen the second big announcement. Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media. As part of that Bethesda and all of the development teams under them become part of the Microsoft banner. It’s a huge deal. Not only in monetary terms for all the ZeniMax corpos but for those of us who play these games. Having ID, Arkane and Machinegames with their pedigree and their games is a huge get. A new Doom, Wolfenstein or, hopefully, Dishonoured as part of GPPC on the day of release is a big reason I’d retain my subscription. I’ve still to play Doom Eternal and haven’t touched an Evil Within so adding in the back catalogue now would ensure I stick around for the potential fruits of this deal. It’s a very clever move on Microsoft’s part.
I do have one big issue with the service. Its inability to recognise my DualShock 4 control pad. There are a bunch of games I would love to play. Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and plenty of Microsofts first party line up I would prefer to play with a control pad. Unfortunately, those games do not map the buttons well on the DS4. For a company who are amazing at accessibility, from the adaptive controller to their interest-free payment plans for the new consoles, I’m disappointed with this. To purchase a new control pad might not seem much but it’s often a decision of either that or a new game. If I was going to buy a second pad it would be another DS4, until I ultimately upgrade to the PS5, so my wife can kick my ass at Street Fighter again. I’m not looking to get an Xbox pad. Whilst it is a very specific gripe with the service it is one which cuts off half of the library from me. Ori was awful on a keyboard and the hoops and settings I went through to try and configure the DS4 as a steam control pad didn’t work for me. Patching recognition of the DS4 pad into the system would be ideal or even the ability to remap any control pad at the service level rather than within individual games would be welcome. This also informs my disgruntled mood with the price rise. If I can’t play many of the games on the service because of the lack of controller support then it will make me consider keeping the service until it’s either included or I can afford a second-hand Xbox pad.
I’m fairly confident that I’ll keep the service for another month whilst I delve into Crusader Kings 3 and a few other PC titles I want to try. Rumours abound of Doom Eternal coming to the service quite quickly too. Most of my time with GPPC has been positive but the controller issue has me torn. I’ll be investigating Xbox Game Streaming and how that works with my GPPC subscription soon so may cave on the control pad issue anyway. If you already have a reasonable PC, £1 to spare and an Xbox control pad Xbox Game Pass for PC is a no brainer.