Microsoft dropped a major announcement Tuesday, revealing the details of its new Xbox Game Pass program. The new subscription service will work much like Netflix, letting you download and play any game in a rotating collection of Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles.
The $9.99/mo service will only be available to Xbox One and Xbox One S owners when it launches later this year, but Microsoft's announcement is clear that it will likely kick into high gear when the company launches its newest console—code-named Project Scorpio—this fall.
Here's how it works: the Game Pass roster will include "over 100" Xbox One and backwards-compatible Xbox 360 titles, with some turnover every month. Games in the collection will be available to download and play on your Xbox One or One S, letting users store them on their local machines and presumably play them offline. This is in contrast to Sony's Playstation Now service, which lets users play games via streaming to the cloud on a number of devices.
As long as a game is in the collection, you can download it, delete it, re-download it, and play it at your leisure. If you want to keep a game you can then purchase the rights to it, with Microsoft claiming you'll be able to save 20 percent off the cost of the base game and 10 percent off the cost of any add-on or DLC packs.
So far Microsoft hasn't revealed what games will be on the service, though the announcement did specifically name Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, and LEGO Batman. The various promotional images for the service also feature games like Saints Row IV, Gears of War, Mad Max, and others.
Where it gets confusing is in how this differs from Xbox's Games With Gold, which is a benefit available to Xbox Live Gold members. With that service, every month users are given the right to download from a rotating collection of games, just like Game Pass.
The main difference? You're able to continue playing those games for as long as you remain an active Xbox Live Gold member, even if they leave the collection. With this new service, it seems like you'll have to either stop playing the game or buy it if it exits the service, similar to Netflix.
While that seems like a bit of a bummer—losing access to titles you love is probably the worst thing about Netflix—that, plus the extra monthly cost, could mean that newer, high-quality games will appear on the Game Pass service, since Microsoft can introduce players new games via Game Pass and then compel them to buy them by taking them off the service.
As someone who grew up with a Sega Genesis dreaming of the day that the Sega Channel would become a thing near me, this is something of a nostalgia bomb, but we'll see how it appeal to modern-day games when the service launches later this year.