If you’re frustrated with the burdensome process of trying to obtain a ninth-gen console (or gpu!) due to the silicon shortage that just never seems to go away, Xbox Game Pass for PC could be your ticket out of that hassle.
Microsoft announced earlier this week that, in addition to Windows 10, Xbox consoles, and smartphones/tablets, the Xbox Game Pass is now available through Chrome/Chromium-based web browsers. That means even Linux and Chromebook users can reap the benefits of playing any game available on Xbox Game Pass through their browser. Initially a invitation-only campaign, any user who creates a Microsoft account can now use Game Pass.
How does it work? Well, if you haven’t created a Microsoft account already, create one. You will need a credit card to sign up, as Microsoft will charge $1 (plus tax) upfront for the first three months that you have Game Pass. You’ll also need to enter your residential address. Subsequent charges after the first three months is $15/month, but you can cancel any time before then (seems like a relatively painless process). I should note you need to have the Ultimate edition of the game pass in order to use through your browser. I also would like to emphasize the fact that the service is currently in beta phase, and I’ve no idea when it will come out of said phase.
Next up is what browser you’ll need. Of course, Microsoft advertises their Edge browser as being compatible, but Chrome, as well as any other Chromium-based browser, should work. I have been unable to get this to work with Firefox. If your web browser has an ad-blocker, you may need to temporarily disable it in order to create a Microsoft account (I couldn’t create an account with the Brave browser, but I can stream games just fine with this browser after creating an account via Chrome).
After successfully creating your account or signed into your existing one, then directing your browser to xbox.com/play, you should be met with something like this:
As of writing this, I’ve counted a total of 267 games that are available for streaming. Titles you may find noteworthy include:
- Halo series, including Master Chief Collection and Halo 5
- Forza series
- Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
- Batman: Arkham Knight
- DiRT 5
- F1 2019
- Minecraft Dungeons
- Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite
- Destroy All Humans!
- Doom series
- Yakuza series
What’s interesting is there’s also a few backwards-compatible Xbox 360 titles:
- Banjo and Kazooie series
- Double Dragon Neon
- Fable series
- Fallout series
- Gears of War series
- Jetpack Refueled
- Joy Ride Turbo
- Perfect Dark series
There’s even a couple of games from the original Xbox:
- Fuzion Frenzy
You may have noticed from these lists though that there aren’t that many games exclusive to Xbox. More than half of these titles are available on PC. The only ones that I can tell that are exclusives are Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Motorsport 7, the Gears of War series, and a few of the Xbox 360 titles. Cyberpunk 2077 is not included. On the other hand, you may find Xbox Game Pass useful for games that you don’t already own, or games that currently don’t work on Proton (Forza Horizon 4 on NVIDIA as an example).
New games get added every month, but I can’t say for certain how many. With the addition of some games comes the deletion of others. For instance, just yesterday Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite was playable, but as I’m looking at the catalog now, it’s no longer available.
What’s pretty neat is you can browse the game selection menu with your gamepad. Of course, you’re going to get the best compatibility with an Xbox controller (I’m personally using the Series X pad), but you can use other pads as well. The DualSense worked, but buttons were a bit mixed up, and the only way to change the mappings is if the game has a built-in button configuration. As far as I’ve tested, you can’t use a keyboard and mouse in-game.
After selecting a title for the first time, you’ll get a brief introduction to the game, who developed/published, get game rating, and, of course, a Play button:
Give the game a few moments to launch:
And then you’ll be good to go:
While playing, you can hit the F11 key to enter in and out of fullscreen mode. Pressing the Guide button on your gamepad, or clicking the Xbox icon on the top-left of the screen, will bring in a menu:
To the left of the Xbox icon is a series of dots that will give you further options. You can allow your web browser to record audio, giving you the ability to use voice chat while playing multiplayer games, enter or exit fullscreen, leave feedback to Microsoft about the streaming quality, or exit the game.
Any time you exit the game, you’ll be asked for feedback:
If any of you out there use this service, do me a favor and tell them to increase the video quality. Not sure if they’ll actually listen or not, but it’s worth a try.
How’s my experience been so far? Not bad. Games that I’ve tried include Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Horizon 4, and Injustice 2. Some folks in our Matrix channel (#boilingsteam:matrix.org) have lamented about poor latency, but I haven’t noticed anything (though, it could be the fact that I’m using my Series X pad via USB to minimize as much latency as possible). While I would have liked to test a few fighting games, there’s nothing there that I have much experience with. As for video quality, that’s where the Xbox Game Pass suffers. It’s not great. It feels like 720p resolution at best, even with a 300 Mbps Ethernet connection. I also noticed a brief audio desync during the opening cutscene while playing Forza Horizon 4, though later on this seemingly disappeared.
For $1, you really can’t go wrong with the Xbox Game Pass. That dollar will last a good three months. You may find yourself griping, however, when you come to the end of those three months, made good progress on a particular game, and discover you’ll have to shell out $15 to continue playing the game. That’s where the snake bite comes in, so be careful not to get yourself too immersed in the games you play. You’ll also need to watch out that some games will be removed at the beginning of each month, and I’ve no idea what you can do about your save data should you have made any progress with that game.
To wrap things up, here’s a summary.
- Good value for $1
- Selection to a few exclusives you can’t get anywhere else, including a few original Xbox and Xbox 360 titles
- You don’t need to buy an Xbox to use this service
- New games get added every month
- Available on a lot more platforms than just your web browser
- Strong Internet connection required at all times
- $15/month after the first three months
- Video quality is meh
- A lot of the games available are games you may already own elsewhere
- Inability to change gamepad config
- Some games get removed each month
In the end, the Xbox Game Pass streaming service is very similar to the cloud gaming services I covered a while back, the only difference being having access to a few exclusives. Will I continue to use the service after my three months are up? Probably not. But I do have to admit it’s pretty neat for Microsoft to do something like this.
Ranking? Definitely not the best in my opinion. I still think Shadow is the best. If Microsoft upped the video quality and added a few more exclusives, then maybe the $15/month would be worth it.