If Xbox is serious about PC Game Pass, subscribers deserve a better app

If Xbox is serious about PC Game Pass, subscribers deserve a better app
Image via Microsoft

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

8th Mar 2024 15:46

Only a few weeks ago, Xbox fans got a little jittery when reports of Starfield and Indiana Jones PS5 ports popped up, but in the podcast interview that followed, Phil Spencer said there's "no fundamental change" in the Xbox business when it comes to exclusives.

That may have relieved some concerns about the future of the platform for fans, but with Microsoft betting bigger than ever on Xbox Game Pass' ability to bring users in, it's going to need to shore up the service, particularly on PC.

Folks, we deserve a much better Xbox Game Pass app.

If not now, then when?

Diablo 4 key art
Click to enlarge

Look, I'll be honest, I've wanted to write this for a while. I gave Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, hoping the app would be fixed before long.

After all, it's only a multibillion-dollar company that's just spent $69 billion to bring in a whole host of studios. They'll get around to it, right? I'd certainly hoped that by the time the first Activision Blizzard games hit Xbox Game Pass, we'd be able to enjoy them hassle-free.

And yet, as we tiptoe ever closer to Diablo 4 on Game Pass this month, I find myself unable to look past it anymore. The Xbox app is, for the most part, just flat-out bad.

More Pals needed

Palworld gameplay
Click to enlarge

The most recent game I jumped into on the Xbox Game Pass app was Palworld back in January. I installed the critter-enslaving survival game and hopped in - and the game itself is a blast.

Outside of it, though, I couldn't believe how much of the Xbox App feels held together by sticky tape and hopes and dreams.

It loads slowly, and sometimes not at all. Downloads are much slower than other storefronts, including Steam and even the Epic Games launcher (which I usually find lags behind Valve's download speeds).

There are weird pop-ups that tell you "Hey, this game on the XBOX APP is going to use your XBOX ACCOUNT", flashbanging you when you load it up with a white screen. Other games, infamously Fallout 3's Game of the Year Edition, are a gamble as to whether they'll load up at all.

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Add to that the fact that, once you hop into Palworld, it remains months behind its Steam counterpart, and it's not a surprise so many hopped the fence. I even found myself picking up Halo and Forza on Steam or just playing them via my Xbox console instead because I couldn't stand using the interface.

It's the kind of experience that someone who pays £1 for their first month could likely bounce right off of, at a time when the service is about to finally kick into life with first-party titles like Indiana Jones, Avowed, and more.

I'm not one to cheer on a big company from the sidelines, but I want Microsoft to put its best foot forward in the name of competition, and it's simply not happening here.

Trim the fat

I will concede, however, there are some things I like about the Xbox app. I like the 'Windows key + G command' to bring up an overlay for game capture, audio settings, and more, and cross-save is great, too.

I like the way I can access my perks more quickly than I can from flicking through the website, and I like knowing my modest Xbox library from the Play Anywhere days is to hand if I ever fancy playing Shadow of War.

Halo 5 Guardians on Xbox App on PC
Click to enlarge

Even that, though, is filled with minor annoyances; Halo 5 doesn't run on PC, so don't show me it on PC. My Riot games are handled through Riot's own launcher, so I don't need to see that VALORANT needs a patch.

The Xbox Store is fine when it loads everything, but the Game Pass tab's curation is a little mixed. "Picks for you" shows me games I already have installed (even noting them as such), while the filter options have sections for Bethesda games, Ubisoft games, and EA Play games (trials are another section) but nothing for Xbox first-party.

Looking to see everything Microsoft has? You'll have to go to 'All Games' and dig through. For a company desperate to prove it has plenty of games, Microsoft really could do with showcasing more of them.

The long and short of it is that Xbox's PC app has actually pushed me away from using it, and nudged me towards much better alternatives. If a revamp doesn't come before Diablo 4, then surely there has to be one before Call of Duty arrives later this year.

I've got no complaints with the library as it stands today, though, I just wish Microsoft would do a better job of showcasing it. There are some absolute bangers here, from Dead Space 2 to Dishonored, Mass Effect, Fallout 4, Ninja Gaiden, and even Quake 3 Arena. But without a decent way of accessing them, Microsoft's commitment to PC players feels a little hollow.

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.

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