I think The Medium has finally made me understand what Game Pass is for. Right now, Bloober Team's latest spooky story is sitting at at 76 on Metacritic (71 on console), and sure it got a bunch of 7s. But it also got a 10. And a 3. This is the most interesting reason to get a 7/10.
The Medium is a game that I would definitely recommend people play - not in the same way I recommend stuff like Outer Wilds or Return Of The Obra Dinn, which are excellent GOATest of all time games. No, I would recommend it because it is a weird oddity that has good stuff and also bad stuff and weird choices. It's the sort of thing that inspires people to give it 10/10 and 3/10. But it also costs £40 at full price, and the only people who spunk that much on a curiosity are weird old men in Victorian novels who have display cases full of curare darts.
But Game Pass costs me £8 a month, right? For £8 a month I'll fill my boots with all The Medium I can get in them. I don't have much interest in buying Grounded right now, but I have definite interest in trying it. I feel sure I would hate Frostpunk, but I am drawn to the idea. I can take the gamble because it's on Game Pass.
Through Game Pass I have played The Gardens Between, finished Astrologaster to about 75% completion before being distracted by something else, poked at and gotten bored of Don't Starve multiple times, and so on and on. And I didn't feel like I wasted any money at any point, because the subscription format at Game Pass has tricked my idiot brain into thinking I am essentially spending no money on these games.
Game Pass isn't for good games, because you buy those for keeps
I mean, obviously I have. When Game Pass was new it wasn't anywhere near as worth £8 as it is now. I've splashed out for the £10.99 Ultimate version with the Play Anywhere thing crossing over onto PC, and the new tie-in with EA Play frontloading a bunch of EA games. I am currently replaying Mass Effect Andromeda and quietly reassessing my view that it wasn't that bad, dunno what everyone is complaining about. Game Pass is finally approaching being the Netflix-but-for-games that I always wanted.
This is reading like an advertorial for Game Pass. I get why people don't like it. Digital-only services can be a ballache unless you have a fairly decent internet connection, because if you do want to play Andromeda on a whim, that whim has to outlast the length of time it takes for you to download 50 actual gig of aliens and space and weird facial animations. Ownership (or lack thereof) of purely digital properties is a bit of a weird one, too: I do not own the vast majority of the games I've played via Game Pass in any sense. Even if I did there's a chance they could be yoinked away if Microsoft and a company they'll own in six months time have a squabble over rights or something. Just look at the ongoing and confusing kerfuffle over some of Frogwares' games. But it works for me because most of the games I play on Game Pass are games that I'm quite happy to never own.
Which I guess is my point: Game Pass isn't for good games, because you buy those for keeps so they don't get pulled when Game Pass does one of its regular refreshes. Game Pass is for, you know, games that are just fine. Maybe you think they're fine because it's a roguelike and you don't like roguelikes, or they're fine because it's some high concept indie bollocks that completely goes over your head but everyone else has played and says is really good so you have to play it and think it's good too. Or maybe its a disasterpiece that demands attention. That's what Game Pass is good for. Not works you think are of actual quality.
The thing that niggles at me is that I'd quite like to know exactly how much a developer benefits from me having a crack on their game. I assume they get flat fees when they sign up to the service, but is there some kind of bonus system too? Is it the same rate for every game? Is there a sliding scale based on how much value Phil Xbox thinks the game will add to the Game Pass lineup? This is the sort of information that Microsoft will obviously never willingly release to the public, but it is also the sort of thing I would like to know. Our own Katharine Castle hosted a Rezzed Session panel with some indie devs on the very topic of sub services, and it seems like it's a pretty good deal from there point of view, but I'm still curious to see all the hard figures.
In any case, I was pleased to see The Medium end up on Game Pass, because it's the sort of game I would like a bunch of people to play and talk about, and Game Pass will only increase the reach, won't it? Game Pass really is a service for 7/10s. It and The Medium are basically made for each other.