Game Pass exclusives
Xbox Game Pass will soon have new exclusive games, but will the subscription truly be a good value? Between licensing and back catalog, here are some of our concerns. Xbox Game Pass costs $9.99 a month. Microsoft

Xbox Game Pass will soon start offering exclusive Xbox One games day-and-date with their retail counterparts. That means 2018’s major titles like Sea Of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and State Of Decay 2 will be published to the service at launch. It sounds awesome for gamers on the surface, but a bad answer to any of these five questions could make the plan fail.

1) Are The New Games Permanently There: Just like Netflix, Xbox Game Pass has established a history of rotating content in and out of its catalog. Titles like Metal Gear Solid V will be leaving the service soon, and that means you can’t play them unless they’re previously downloaded under an active subscription. While it’ll be nice to have instant access to Sea Of Thieves this March, will that still be true in April, May or June?

That much is still very unclear. Xbox Programming Director Larry Hryb has said “the Xbox One Exclusives will be a permanent part of Game Pass moving forward,” but that could just mean the idea of having exclusives as opposed to unlimited licenses for individual games. If access is limited by time, it might actually be more worthwhile to buy a full copy instead of subscribing. Your other option, of course, is to store tons of Game Pass games on a large-capacity hard drive to play them long after they’re potentially gone.

2) Will Monthly Subscription Continue: As it stands right now, Game Pass subscribers pay a monthly fee of $9.99 with the ability to cancel at any time. It’s a flexible concept, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it were altered in the months ahead. After all, monthly fees make it very easy for customers to pay $10 to play the new Halo for a month and never come back. Microsoft will lose lots of money on those kinds of investments.

As a result, it seems likely Microsoft might push for Game Pass as a yearly subscription instead. If that happens, however, fewer people may be interested in spending the money up front. It’s a delicate dance for the Xbox team no matter the decision. Is it more worth it in the short term to possibly lose some development capital, or do you recoup that capital by making a few past customers upset? It’s a lose-lose situation.

3) Will Back Catalog Still Be The Focus: It’s amazing to see new games coming to Game Pass on day one, but will this shift negatively impact Microsoft’s plans to support its back catalog on the service? We still, for example, aren’t playing Forza Horizon 3 or Quantum Break on Game Pass, and the addition of newer titles might make those prospects even bleaker.

'Fable Anniversary' is one of the newest additions to Game Pass, but will it be shelved for good once a new 'Fable' is released? Microsoft

After all, as much as older games add value to subscriptions, they’re not going to be as valuable to Microsoft as the newer software in the lineup. Consider the assumption that Halo 6 arrives on Game Pass. Microsoft would want to push you toward the new experience because it has super-cool cosmetic loot boxes that generate revenue and lead to lasting community engagement. As such, Halo 5 and The Master Chief Collection might get cut. Especially if older games appeal to you, it’s not unthinkable that benefit might eventually get drowned out by newer titles.

4) What About Third-Party Support: This honestly isn’t a huge deal, but the future of Xbox Game Pass truly becoming a “Netflix for games” relies on major third-party support. Especially in the games industry, those kinds of licensing deals are notoriously difficult to strike.

If the service winds up being a huge hit we’d imagine lots of developers will hop on board. If that doesn’t happen, though, the release cadence will start to look more like a trickle than the flood a good subscription requires. In fact, if new games are truly the emphasis, Microsoft may even shy away from third-party deals to shine a bigger light on its own games. Either way that’s a loss for subscribers.

5) Is There A Weak Future Lineup: Let’s assume everything checks out and all new games are permanently available with a monthly fee. That’s awesome to the point of almost being too good to be true, but it also raises questions about Microsoft’s first-party lineup going forward. Why is this company so OK with offering such a ridiculous value?

Is it because its exclusive lineup for 2018 and beyond won’t be that substantial to begin with? We’ve got at least four decent titles in the pipeline this year, but 2019 is still a big question mark. We have no doubt Phil Spencer and crew are working hard to revive beloved franchises like Fable and Perfect Dark, but is this a quiet admission that maybe we’ll only get one or two big Xbox games a year from here on out? If that’s true, Game Pass may not hold as much subscriber value as it appears.

What do you think of the new Game Pass exclusives deal? Will Microsoft deliver on its promises, or are there still some caveats to come? Tell us in the comments section!