XBox Game Pass for PC Leaves Beta

I’ve been an on-and-off subscriber to XBox Game Pass for PC, and yesterday (September 17th, 2020), I received an email from them that the service is finally exiting Beta.

Currently, the offer for $1 for the first month is still available, but the $4.99 per month cost is no longer unless you’re a current subscriber with a renewal date prior to October 17th. I happen to fall into that category, having re-subbed at the beginning of September to check out Spiritfarer and Hypnospace Outlaw.

Still, even at the increased monthly rate of $9.99, the XBox Game Pass for PC service still seems like a fantastic deal, especially for games you feel like you’re unlikely to revisit. I still expect that my subscription will be sporadic – there usually has to be at least a couple recently added titles that I’d like to play – but I can’t argue with the quality and quantity of games on offer.

Goodbye, Humble Monthly. Hello, Humble Choice.

It’s been over a year since Humble Bundle sent out surveys to feel out some customers about adding additional tiers to their Humble Monthly subscription. Today, they announced that Humble Monthly is going to become Humble Choice before the end of 2019. Since the early unlocks for November have already been announced, that seems to imply that Humble Choice will begin with the December 2019 bundle.

The tier structure they’ve come up with is … interesting, to say the least.

So, let me break this down for you.

If you have an active Humble Monthly subscription, you will be grandfathered into the Classic plan when Choice launches. You keep paying $12 a month (or whatever it comes out to for whatever multi-month plan you currently subscribe to), and you get 10 games a month, Trove access, store discount. The primary change for you is that there will no longer be “hidden” unlocks, which I am taking to mean that you will still be able to pause a bundle after the games are revealed, but prior to claiming any keys.

However, if you want to keep the classic program, you can only pause, because if you cancel at any point, you will never be able to subscribe at the classic tier again.

For non-current subscribers, the options are a little different. The Lite plan costs $5 a month, and gives you Trove access and a small store discount. The Basic plan costs $14.99 a month, and you only get to choose three games from each month’s options. The Premium Plan is $19.99 a month, and even then, you’ll STILL have to pass on a game every month, because the top tier subscription only allows you to select 9 games.

If you are currently cancelled, and think that you might want to lock in the Classic plan, I wouldn’t advise waiting to see if you get a new batch of early reveals. Excluding the Lite (which is basically a subscription service to the Trove), every other tier is going to cost more and you will get less than if you lock into the Classic tier now.

Now, I’m a little grumbly about how not consumer-friendly this whole Classic tier is, but as someone who has only skipped two months of the Humble Monthly since I started my subscription back in August of 2016, I’m going to ride it out. I don’t know how long the pause window will be every month, but you can bet that Humble Bundle is counting on the fact that people will forget to pause when there’s nothing of interest.

Edited to add: The part of this I am most curious about, if we’re being honest is the “unlimited” access to published originals and betas. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out – will all Humble Published games be available to all non-Lite subscribers as DRM free downloads? Steam keys? Of are they just going to jam them all into a choice bundle? Does this apply to already released games? We shall see how it pans out.

For me, the possibility of getting Forager and Crying Suns as part of my sub is too good to pass up, and I’m sure there are many other Humble Bundle published games that I’d be interested in as well.

More Subscription Gaming – XBox Game Pass and Origin Access

Now that my period of being insanely busy is (mostly) behind me, I decided to pull the trigger on a month of XBox Game Pass for PC. Even if I only play one of the games that I’m interested in – or play a couple long enough to realize that they’re just not for me – I will have gotten my dollar’s worth out of it.

With a free month of Origin Access starting on November 1st, I’m currently a little bit overwhelmed, so I decided to start making some notes on the games that interest me on both services.

XBox Game Pass for PC

  • We Happy Few
  • Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
  • Night Call
  • Prey
  • Vampyr

This is actually more or less in order for me – I’ve been curious about We Happy Few for a long time (and I adored Contrast), but it’s not anything I would ever consider paying AAA pricing for. That makes it a perfect candidate for me to try out via subscription. Both Prey and Vampyr are games that I expect to pick up on sale or in a bundle at some point, so if I don’t get to them now, it’s not a big deal for me.

Origin Access Basic

I struggled a little more to fine Origin Access games that were of interest – I will absolutely play through Unravel (and the sequel, if I enjoy it). The rest of this list is basically things I’m interested in, but not interested in enough to buy just yet. I might play through one, or treat them all like demos to pinpoint which of them I’d actually want to add to my library.

Probably the biggest thing I’m learning is that I am so far from the target market for most of these services. I was underwhelmed by the UPlay+ selection last month, Origin Access has never had enough that interested me to pony up a measly $5 a month, and although the XBox Game Pass looks pretty good for $1 (and admittedly, still pretty good for $5), it’s not anything I’m likely to keep paying for once it hits its full price.

These big brand-name services are – I’m sure – more appealing for folks who haven’t been compulsively collecting free and cheap games for the past five or so years, as well as those who want to jump on the latest hot new multiplayer titles.

Still, I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to sample from all of these gaming buffets without taking a big hit to my wallet, and I have to acknowledge that anyway you look at it, it’s cheap entertainment.

… at least, if you can choose just one. As someone who subscribes to more television streaming services than I care to admit, I can also see how it would add up fast.

More interestingly, I’m keeping an eye on how all these subscription services are going to effect more traditional game publishing, as they become more popular. Just as digital downloads have all but replaced physical PC games, will subscription services be the next big thing for gaming? I guess we’ll see.

Quick Look – Ode

This is going to be brief – even for a Quick Look – because although I’m sure there are the right words for the experience of playing Ode, I’m not sure that I know what they are.

If you want a beautiful, relaxing experience, and you took advantage of the Uplay+ free month, take a few minutes and give this one a download. Make sure you have the right language selected (mine defaulted to German, and I was very confused for a few minutes), and put on your headphones.

There’s a little bit of light puzzling, low-key platforming, but mostly, you float around and touch things. There are orange orbs you can collect – and they are useful – but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of fail state. There are only four levels (and you can’t save mid-level), so make sure you have the time to relax and not need to rush it.

UPlay+ Free Trial Available Today

Since I’m completely unable to resist anything free, I made sure to activate my Uplay+ Trial today. Activation does require payment information; this is pretty normal, though, as they hope you’ll forget to cancel. Spoiler: I won’t forget to cancel.

Most of the available games come from Ubisoft’s main franchises – you’ll find plenty of Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Tom Clancy games. Conspicuously absent are the Anno games (although their FAQ indicates that there is a technical issue preventing the availability of Anno 1800). There is also a good selection of Ubisoft classic series – Might & Magic, The Settlers, and Prince of Persia are all accounted for.

For me? I might load up Child of Light (a game that I found intriguing, but never got around to purchasing). Ode and Transference also look like they might be good, but let’s be real. As someone who already owns more Assassin’s Creed games than I am ever likely to play, there’s very little here to make me consider playing the full price of $14.99 a month.

Subscription Gaming Services – Utomik

It was August of 2009 when I bought my first game on Steam, and another year passed before I purchased a second game. I had no idea at the time that it would be my primary method of games acquisition someday, that PC games would be carried less and less in brick & mortar retailers, and that eventually, most games wouldn’t even be able to be purchased physically.

Three years before that, I subscribed to my first gaming service – Shockwave Unlimited. Although it was focused on mostly casual, coffee-break style games, and I have, in the years since, purchased games I played for the first time under that subscription.

In time, I moved towards a different type of gaming experience, and until recently, hadn’t given much thought to subscription gaming services. Of course, I’ve become aware of quite a few over the past couple of years: big names like Origin Access, PSNow, and XBox GamePass. The first one I was interested in enough to click the free trial button on, however, was Utomik.

There’s an interesting mix of games available to play through Utomik, although overall, I would say it is heavily weighted towards casual games, and I would never recommend it to someone who only wants to play the newest AAA hotness. I did find there to be a pretty impressive collection of indie games, including some pricey titles from niche genres, like Little Dragons Cafe.

I honestly thought I’d spend a day or two browsing Utomik’s catalog, play a few hidden object or time management games until I’d had my fill, and wander off. Now, I’m thinking I’ll keep my sub for at least a month, as there’s a handful of games that had flown under my radar that I’d really like to try out while I have the opportunity.

Do I need a game subscription service in my life? No, I most definitely do not. My Steam library is overwhelmingly huge, and it’s well supplemented by games picked up here and there on other launchers. But I’ve also been craving some bite-sized, low-brain gaming, and so I’m going to play Youda Sushi Chef, and a few hidden object games I haven’t seen in bundles yet, and the ridiculous looking (and poorly-reviewed) Sudokuball Detective.

Then I’m going to check out some games I’ve never heard of before: Dry Drowning, My Lovely Daughter, and unWorded. Finally, I’m going to spend some time with games that I’ve had wishlisted, but that I just haven’t been sure I wanted to buy, like Deep Sky Derelicts, Robothorium, and Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark. I’ve definitely spend the $7 it’ll cost for a month of Utomik (after the 14 day trial ends) in a lot worse ways.

I’m also probably going to keep playing Little Dragons Cafe, because MY GOODNESS it’s adorable, but nothing I would ever spend $50 on.