As someone that’s lucky enough to have a job in the video game industry, I know that video game pricing is a topic I don’t tend to think about as often as other people. I am aware that I do not pay for a lot of the video games I play, and have the option to try a lot of different video games without thinking too much about the prices of them. That said, I am well aware that this isn’t the case for a lot of other groups of gamers.
Disabled gamers, on the whole, are less financially well off than a lot of other groups of people playing video games. From difficulty finding and keeping employment, to the associated costs that can come with living as a disabled person, disabled gamers often have less money to spend on video games, and find themselves saddled with additional costs to play video games on a level playing field.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to talk about Xbox Game Pass. We’re going to talk about how the service has become an accessible way for many disabled gamers to play a variety of games, and about some of the unique challenges faced by disabled gamers which subscriptions like Game Pass can help to overcome.
For anyone unaware, what is Game Pass? Well, Game Pass is a Microsoft subscription service, available on Xbox and PC, where players can pay a recurring monthly fee for access to, but not ownership of, digital games. Players can download as many games as they like, play them through to completion, and find something else to play, as long as they continue to be subscribed to the service.
The service contains a mix of both first party and third party games, often added to the service on release day, and has a pretty huge library at this point covering big budget AAA games, as well as interesting indie releases.
Here in the UK Game Pass costs £7.99 per month for either PC or Xbox, or £10.99 per month for both platforms, as well as a few other extras such as game streaming, which we will talk about later. At current prices, a year of Game Pass subscription at the Ultimate tier costs around £130 per year, around the price of 2-3 full price day one new AAA video games.
So, how does Game Pass function as accessibility for disabled gamers? Well, in more ways than you might imagine.
Firstly, let’s dig into the bigger picture of Gamepass’s price proposition. Being able to play a wide catalogue of video games, without an upper limit on how many games you can play, for the price of 2-3 AAA releases per year is a strong value proposition on its own for those who want to play through a lot of games, but are financially limited in what they can spend. However, a big part of the pricing proposition is the number of devices these games are available on.
Xbox Game Pass works on PC, a device many people already own outside of gaming, on last generation Xbox consoles, next generation consoles, and if you subscribe to GamePass Ultimate even works via streaming on your phone or tablet. If you’ve got a good internet connection and an Xbox controller, you can play brand new Xbox games, on release day, on your existing tablet, with the game itself being run remotely on Xbox hardware somewhere else in the world. It won’t be a perfect experience, but it’s an option that doesn’t require any upfront investment in hardware strong enough to run modern games.
Microsoft has made a real effort to make their own software, as well as their Game Pass offerings, available to as many players as possible regardless of platform. No pressure to upgrade right away to next generation consoles, just play a bunch of games on hopefully a device you already own.
Beyond the discussion of price, there’s another area of accessibility afforded by services like Xbox GamePass, the ability to try out a game and see if it’s accessible for you or not, without risking your limited budget.
Many game developers today are still pretty terrible about telling people in advance of launch what level of disabled player accessibility exists within their games. Some developers don’t announce accessibility features at all before release day, some mention features in broad strokes that don’t give enough detail to be useful for purchasing choices, and in many cases a disabled gamer who wants to play a video game on day one will be taking a financial risk. If they buy a game, and it turns out to be unplayable for them, that’s money down the drain they may not be able to recover.
With a service like Game Pass, if a disabled player picks up a game, and it turns out not to be accessible to them, they can simply delete it and download something else to play. Sure, in a perfect world game developers would just tell us in advance what accessibility settings and options their games have ahead of release, but until then Game Pass offers a safer option for checking out games on their release dates in many cases.
Additionally, if you’re a gamer with a condition such as ADHD, and struggle to focus on completing a single game before needing to hop around and try something different, Game Pass offers enough variety of games that it’s easy to just jump around, trying lots of little bits of different things, without that quickly becoming an expensive proposition.
Obviously, Xbox Game Pass isn’t going to be right for everyone. You don’t own your games after you stop paying for your subscription, and many people struggle with recurrent subscriptions impacting their finances, but for many disabled gamers a small monthly fee to access unlimited games, on a variety of devices you may already own, with no financial cost involved in trying something that may not be accessible, is a really approachable way to play more video games.
So many aspects of gaming are more expensive for disabled gamers, from accessibility controllers being expensive to upfront purchase, to accessibility features being hidden behind DLC paywalls. While Game Pass doesn’t fix those problems, it does offer one solution that is helping some disabled gamers afford to stay up to date on gaming.