I want to get out ahead of this blog and say that I believe that Xbox Game Pass is a fantastic service that people should look into if they have the extra cash and a desire to play more games. That being said, the PC experience for the service isn’t great and I think that Windows is mostly to blame for that. This isn’t me complaining about the games or the value of the service itself, instead this focuses solely on how ironically miserable the PC launcher integrates with Windows.
To its credit, the Xbox app on PC is constantly being updated which is very reassuring but there are still so many things about the application that either don’t work or don’t integrate well with the rest of Windows for one reason or another.
Let’s start with achievements. One of the more endorphin-releasing things that the Xbox ecosystem has provided to us has to be the noise and animation that play out whenever you get an achievement. I don’t give a shit about the achievement itself, but it just feels nice to get them thanks to the way they’re presented. However you don’t get any of that on PC, or if you do I certainly haven’t found a way to enable it. There’s probably something I could to with my notification settings on Windows, but I fear that messing with those might invite every other app to send me notifications about their garbage.
But those are just achievements and their absence doesn’t actively prevent me from playing my games. Updates however, they’ll stop you dead in your tracks. There was a night that some friends and I wanted to play Halo together via Halo: The Master Chief Collection, something I’ve had installed on my computer since it was released on PC through the Xbox app at the end of last year.
I went to launch the game and join my friends but was stopped by a “version mismatch” error. It seemed that there was an update that just never happened for some reason which in all fairness isn’t a glitch exclusive to Game Pass. All I’d have to do would be to launch the Xbox app and update it, right? The app opened, I went to the Halo: The Master Chief Collection page where no notice of an update existed which made me assume that all I needed was to reboot the Game Pass app itself to clear things up.
After relaunching the application, I found that it kept getting locked up on a blank black screen right after the Xbox logo appeared. Not great, but I could probably go to the Windows Store app to check for updates, right? Turns out, the Windows Store app didn’t want to fetch my updates and instead felt like force-quitting whenever I clicked the downloads page. Maybe I can reinstall the Xbox app and it’ll finally work? Nope, the installer breaks every time I hit install ultimately requiring me to force quit the installer all together. This whole situation sucks.
After two days of frantic Googling, the suggestion to check for Windows updates was floated by me and seemed like the last option before reluctantly calling customer service. That actually did the trick. Now I did in fact check my automatic update settings and although they were enabled they just never happened, so thanks again Windows. That update fixed everything, but the fact that everything broke because I was running a version of Windows that was a few months old is insane.
But fine, whatever, I can play my damn games now. There is one last thing that drives me utterly mad with Game Pass though, and that’s how every single time I launch a game for the first time, this slow and laggy dialogue box pops up asking if I authorize the app to use my information. I appreciate that I’m being asked about this stuff, but it really seems redundant when I’m actively paying for this service. I’d honestly prefer some filters to select what I want to be notified about would be better than just throwing a pop-up at me for everything. Also, I don’t need two fucking emails to be sent to me about it when I hit accept on a new game.
A lot of this sounds like nitpicking which it most definitely is, but if the ultimate goal of Xbox Game Pass on PC is to bring the console experience to the PC, then it’s failing. The whole allure of a console is that everything is self contained and just works without much issue, but the fact that Game Pass feels haphazardly bolted onto the rest of Windows makes its integration far less seamless. I love Game Pass as a service but it’s just not fully there on PC yet, and Windows is mostly to blame.