About a month ago or so, when we first heard the news that all future Xbox One exclusive games would be heading to Xbox Game Pass, our staff was split. It’s obviously a pretty great deal if you’re looking forward to even just one of the Xbox One’s exclusive games, however, some, like our very own Alex Gibson, thought that it wouldn’t ultimately change the mind of people who just prefer their games to be physical. I was in that camp with him.
I played the Sea of Thieves beta a couple of weeks ago and even with a small sample size, I was hooked enough to decide to pre-order the full game for myself. However, a few days later, I needed to return a copy of Horizon Zero Dawn that I bought (because I got sent the EU version by mistake), and as I did so, saw that Sea of Thieves pre-order. For whatever reason, I had an epiphany in that moment. Why on earth would I buy this game when I can just subscribe to Xbox Game Pass for half a year for the same price, and get other games on top of it?
I proudly display all my physical games across multiple storage towers that stretch across four generations of games. I even go as far as to buy empty game cases on e-Bay for games that I get digitally (such as Gravity Rush 2 when I reviewed it). I was one of many gamers that dreaded and resisted the supposed digital-only future. Why on earth would anyone want digital games for a home console if physical was an option? For handhelds it makes sense; not having to carry around cartridges with them everywhere. But for home consoles, how often do most people really actually bring their home console out? And even then, if you’re willing to transport some big ass Xbox One, what’s the big deal about carrying around a few games at that point. By buying digital on Xbox One, you’re just giving up the ability to easily share or sell your games. And with the exception of Steam, most of the time you can find better deals on used physical games rather than waiting around for a digital sale that’s worth it.
However, I of a few years ago didn’t envision something like the Game Pass while I was scoffing at the Xbox One’s original design and vision. Even without the exclusives, it’s a solid deal that has clear advantages over PlayStation’s closest equivalent; all future Xbox exclusives being on it, though, puts it way over the top.
At this point, the only reason to resist would be out of stubbornness and an extreme fondness for a physical version. Just as early on in this generation and last, there seemed to be little advantage to owning a game digitally, with Xbox Game Pass, the tables have turned. I could not bring myself to leave my Sea of Thieves pre-order as is. I’d be foolish to not cancel it. Why willingly accept less for the same price? As long as Microsoft can continue to add worthwhile games to it, at least within six months (the price of a full exclusive game to get your money’s worth), I’ll keep the subscription active. And if not, I’ll cancel Xbox Game Pass and find a discounted version of Sea of Thieves at that point if I’m really loving it still six months later. If that’s the case by then, it will have earned a second buy from me.
Microsoft is poised to win this war of minds against resistant digital adopters. Old-school console gamers like myself just needed clear reasons to pick digital over physical for home consoles, and Microsoft with the Xbox Game Pass is finally starting to deliver.