Bethesda has moved AAA mega-hit-in-waiting Starfield into 2023 along with the intriguing but less likely to sell large numbers Redfall. While the latter had no date, it had been expected to be released this year, at some point before Starfield. With those two games now off the year’s release schedule, what else is on the horizon for Game Pass, and does Xbox have a small problem it needs to fix?
It’s fair to say that for many people Game Pass is the platform – the Xbox console/PC/mobile is just how they access it. Losing two big games seems like a bit of a problem, especially when you look at the year that’s been, what else is to come, and what happened last year.
At the end of 2021 Xbox had a couple of its own big-hitters arrive. Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite both qualify as proper AAA goodness. The kind of games people who don’t read this website get excited about – games that you might see ads for before the big movie of the moment. Microsoft, seemingly keen to make sure it had something of note in all the big end of year months, managed to get Back 4 Blood on Game Pass the day it released. You might have thoughts about how good Back 4 Blood is, but it was a great get for the service. A big third-party game that you had to buy on other platforms.
2021 also saw the likes of Flight Simulator, Psychonauts 2, Outriders, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, and The Ascent hit Game Pass on day one – plus plenty of others. It was a great year to be a Game Pass subscriber.
Fast forward to today and things are looking less impressive; not bad, as such, with Game Pass still consistently dropping excellent games (and a lot of day one indies), but just a bit lacking in the big draw – the game that would tempt someone to subscribe in the same way a game might push you over the line to buy a console. A service seller.
Tunic, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Extraction, Total War: Warhammer III are all decent to great day one Game Pass games, and Sniper Elite 5 arrives soon, but then we’ve got tumbleweed as far as AAA goes. Xbox could announce something during its showcase event next month, but it seems unlikely that a blockbuster game is waiting in the wings to be released this year that we didn’t know about. So, what games could it turn to, ala Back 4 Blood, to fill a gap?
Saints Row at the end of August would fit the bill, as would Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Gotham Knights in October would be a top-drawer get but feels less likely (and is also a game I wouldn’t be surprised to see delayed – no inside info, just general pessimism around release dates). I’m not overly hopeful about any of those coming to Game Pass, and then the rest of the release schedule is pretty barren. It’ll fill in, for sure, but there’s unlikely to be much Microsoft could pull into the Game Pass fold.
I’m a card-carrying Game Pass fan, and for me there will be loads of games arriving that make the sub worthwhile. But for a subscription service, like Netflix and Disney +, most people are always looking for the big new thing to arrive. Hopefully in about a month’s time I’ll look back on this article and be all, “what a silly man you were,” on the back of a slew of announcements at the Xbox and Bethesda showcase, but currently the year ahead looks less spectacular than a service like Game Pass needs to be.