Okay, Microsoft, what bad karma are you trying to negate? The company is not only bringing several of its games to Steam, relinquishing them from Windows Store purgatory, but it’s also bringing its Game Pass to PC now. That’s a previously-unforeseen level of love for PC gamers.
Microsoft revealed via Xbox Wire it’s bringing its subscription service to the PC. For those of you who don’t have an Xbox One, the Game Pass allows you to play 100+ Xbox One and 360 games locally on your device (as opposed to streaming, as with PS Now) for about $10 per month. The service first launched two years ago, and, according to Xbox head Phil Spencer, had “millions of subscribers” as of late last year.
The company will also be offering 20 previously-unavailable games on Steam, including all three Age of Empires games, and it’ll also be offering the upcoming game Gears of War 5 there. There’s a chance they’ll be available on other stores too. Says Spencer, “We know millions of PC gamers trust Steam as a great source to buy PC games and we’ve heard the feedback that PC gamers would like choice. We also know that there are other stores on PC, and we are working to enable more choice in which store you can find our Xbox Game Studios titles in the future.”
Up to now, Microsoft has kept most of its first-party games exclusive to the Windows Store — Gears 4, Sea of Thieves, and Crackdown 3 being a few examples. For that reason, the revelation that it was bringing several past Halo games to Steam was a huge surprise. Now it’s going to be doing the same with several of its other titles.
Now that it’s expanding to Steam, how is it going to keep gamers coming back to the Windows Store? Apparently that’s now going to be connected to the Xbox Game Pass on PC — or, at the very least, if you have a Game Pass subscription, you’ll be able to buy the games you’ve played with it at a discount from the Windows Store.
Far be it for me to speculate this might be anything other than benevolence on behalf of Microsoft, but I do wonder if this support for PC gamers presages even more investment in platform crossover in the next console generation. Spencer emphasizes, “the player should be at the center of their gaming experience” and admits that its previous preference for its own store might not have been the most user-friendly attitude.
Between bringing games like Halo to Steam, rolling out Game Pass for PC, and teaming up with Sony of all companies on cloud streaming, the company’s clearly hoping to expand its userbase beyond just Xbox console gamers. Maybe, just maybe, this is a goodwill gesture ahead of the rollout of its Project xCloud streaming service, or maybe xCloud will play a role in how it intends to launch future games on PC.
Either way, we’ll know after the company does its E3 show in June. It’s promised to reveal more about Game Pass then, and I’ll wager we’ll also hear more about xCloud.