We knew it was too good to be true. Change is coming for Xbox and PC Game Pass subscribers, as the service is due its first big price increase next month – jumping up from £10.99 to £12.99 in the UK – and leading some gamers to wonder, is it all worth it?
To soften the blow, Microsoft has just announced a new, Core tier, which replaces Xbox Live Gold and grants access to multiplayer experiences, as well as a list of 25 Game Pass titles to get stuck into, all for $9.99 a month, which we can probably expect for around £6.99.
The service has nearly 500 games available across Xbox, PC and Cloud, including most first party titles, so what is there to complain about in terms of value for money? We put the service to the test and see if it’s still the best deal in gaming. You can share your own musings on our Discord.
Game Over: It’s not worth it | James Parry
While I’m not personally about to cancel Game Pass anytime soon – though I really thought twice when it came around for annual renewal last month and found that there was basically no way to pay for anything less than Ultimate if you want to use it on Xbox – I’m not sure this new offer is giving you the same level of value for money, making it increasingly hard to recommend as a service.
Subscription services make money, and everyone knows it. Getting people to forget they need to cancel is how they keep your money, and sending emails talking about how prices are “updating” rather than “increasing” and don’t remind you just how much you are paying today make it all sound a bit too reasonable.
It’s not a huge increase, and if you are paying annually it might save you a bit of course, but if you are paying monthly that’s now about £156 a year instead of £132, so even with increasing prices of games, you might expect another mid-sized game (like the underrated Hi-Fi Rush) or reasonable expansion to one of Xbox’s on-going experiences, like Sea of Thieves – which happens to have a Legend of Monkey Island-themed update on the way.
Whether Xbox can keep up the momentum of “newness” though, seems unlikely given the form they’ve been having recently. Even with an eye-watering 23 studios under their belt, and potentially more to come if the Activision Blizzard merger goes through, you’d think they could manage a first party game every couple of months, but in fact it’s more like one every six months, as gamers demand more complexity and fidelity from their games and development times increase to follow suit.
Xbox really needs Starfield to knock it into another galaxy, as they have little else to write home about on the slate for the rest of this year, though 2024 has plenty up its sleeve as some of the bigger studio acquisitions start to bear fruit.
There’s still hope for this price hike to prove it’s worth its salt, but for now an increase just before Starfield means they are definitely expecting a subscriber boost. Time will tell whether they stick around.
Whenever we ponder our favourite games of the year so far it's always amazing not only how fast the year has gone, but how many great titles there are to choose from, and 2023 is no exception.
We've seen some best-in-class remakes, the return of fan-favourite franchises, as well as more sequels than you can shake a controller at. What’s been your highlight so far?
If, like Liam, you haven’t played a lot of new games, it’s perfectly acceptable to choose a classic you’re just discovering, or rediscovering. Read on for our picks and share your own on our Discord.
Much like Liam, the list of new titles I've played in 2023 is shorter than I would've thought. After extensively searching and checking the release dates of everything I have even the vaguest memory of downloading, I finally settled on the very first game that jumped out at me, days prior.
Loop Hero is one of the indie-est indies I've stumbled across, merging different elements to create something that should be a mess, but makes perfect sense as a package. It's a roguelike auto-battler in which the hero wanders a (potentially) endless, randomly-generated loop, defeating enemies and acquiring loot, gearing up for the eventual boss fight.
Though player agency is absent during combat, you are in control of how the loop evolves, as you build the world around it. Cards gained from battles can be placed on, or around, the loop, granting passive stat boosts or buffs and, usually, spawning a different enemy type. After you've filled a set number of empty tiles, the boss spawns in at the end of the current loop.
As expeditions can be over fairly quickly if you allow the hero to traverse the loop without too much intervention, it can be a relaxed, easy-going, adventure. Or, you can choose to micro-manage every part of your hero's loadout and design the world with precision, to provide as many benefits as possible whilst minimising risk. I found myself walking the latter path more often, as the narrative slowly pulled me in with its genuinely enthralling, sci-fi, nonsense.
I'm yet to see how the entire story unfolds, but the bitesize nature of Loop Hero means I'll probably return here and there, maybe in between not playing some of the bigger releases this year.
Taking it right back to the beginning of the year, I was all ready to dive into Forespoken and love it, but unfortunately the demo left me cold – meaning an early contender for GOTHY was immediately out.
Redfall too was a disappointment, though far from the complete technical and narrative that was reported (and expect a review of it in the not-so-distant future), which left me zero for two – or perhaps a half – for the year, but surely there’d be a game coming along which could really knock my socks off eventually, right?
I’m hoping that game will be Pikmin 4, due this month, but in the meantime there was one last contender for the first half – Planet of Lana.
I played a bit of the game back at EGX 2022 and the end result was a beautiful example of a handful of simple mechanics executed extremely well and is generally a really well thought out experience.
Special mention should go to Hi-Fi Rush which came out of nowhere and contrary to Liam's experience, really impressed on all fronts, from the vivid and exciting art style to the execution of its music-inspired mechanics. It’s one you should absolutely not pass up.
You might think The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is conspicuous by its absence, and in fact if I had played more of the game it may well be here, but so far I’m still collecting my thoughts for the review, that you’ll have to wait a bit longer for.