This was a massive moment for Xbox Game Pass and the true turning point for the year. The service went from 414 avaible titles the first time that Game Pass Counter publicly revealed its lists, all the way to 505 where it stands now. Despite a consistent loss of games the service was still able to add nearly 100 games to the total number offered. Xbox leverages its release/removal schedule for this consistent flow of positive growth. Games are removed from the service twice a month, once somewhere around the 14th-16th of the month, and the 29th-31st of the month. However, new games are added every week, and usually (not always) the weekly additions are each larger than the bi-weekly subtractions. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t losses that hurt. The service loss major games such as Monster Hunter: World, Grand Theft Auto V, and Red Dead Online. These losses just didn’t hurt as badly in the face of the constant additions. When Xbox lacked a major release to hold up a month they compensated for it through all levels of game development. With indie darlings such as Hades to hits like Back 4 Blood. These droughts, big or small, were only droughts for first party new releases. The strategy they used to make up for it was a 4 pronged attack:
1. Add legacy titles (Original Fallouts, Psychonauts, Blinx)
2. Secure Day One deals for hotly anticipated indies (Hades, Omno, 12 Minutes, The Artful Escape)
3. Secure Day One and/or few month delayed indie/AA/AAA launches (The Forgotten City, Outriders, Yakuza: Like a Dragon)
4. Supplement these periods with new free updates to existing games (Sea of Thieves, Halo: The Master Chief Collection)
These strategies helped propel Xbox to the front of the industry’s attention this year. The quality of games can’t be disputed either. From games released in 2021 (besides Starfield) there were 19 different games nominated for awards at The Game Awards, with a whopping 32 nominations between them. Xbox themselves also led all publishers in nominations by nearly double with 20 nominations.