Yesterday, Microsoft finally added EA Play Games to Xbox Game Pass for PC, giving users access to over 100 new EA games on PC at no additional cost. EA Play games were already available on Xbox consoles for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, though the EA Play catalog on PC may actually a bit more attractive thanks to the inclusion of PC exclusive titles.
Microsoft initially planned to bring EA Play games to Xbox Game Pass for PC back in December, but this was unfortunately delayed to give the EA and Xbox teams more time to get the technical details right. We’ve known since last year that accessing EA Play games with Xbox Game Pass for PC would require subscribers to download the new EA Desktop app, and this separate game launcher is still in beta as of today.
If a selection of EA Play games now appears in the Xbox app for Windows 10, all these games will be downloaded from the separate EA Desktop app instead of Microsoft’s own platform. The Xbox app can display the progress of the game download on the EA Desktop app, but having to use two separate game launchers isn’t exactly a great experience.
It’s also worth noting that not all EA Play games are currently visible in the Xbox app for Windows 10, and the app invites users to open EA Desktop to see the full list of games. Worse, some EA Play games that appear on the Xbox app are actually not available in the catalog, and trying to installing them will give users confusing error messages. You have an example below with SimCity 2000 Special Edition, which isn’t available in the EA Desktop app.
Last year, EA announced that it would bring all of its games to Steam and also offer its EA Play subscription service on Valve’s platform. Subscribing to EA Play on Steam is a pretty seamless process, and users can start downloading games right after signing up, no separate game launcher required. It’s not clear why EA didn’t just bring its PC games to the Xbox app and the Windows 10 Microsoft Store, especially since EA Play is a service that launched first on Xbox One consoles back in 2014 with a now-defunct “EA Access” branding.
PC gamers generally hate having to deal with multiple game launchers, and EA bringing its games and EA Play to Steam last year was an encouraging sign. Unfortunately, Xbox Game Pass for PC members are getting a different treatment and it seems that many of them have been confused and frustrated by the EA Desktop app. Since yesterday, the Xbox Game Pass for PC subreddit has been filled with complaints from gamers having trouble install EA Play games, and it's clear that bringing all EA Play games to the Windows 10 Xbox app would have been much more convenient.
Microsoft added several Bethesda games to Xbox Game Pass for PC last week, and we’re lucky the company didn’t ask subscribers to create a Bethesda account and download the Bethesda Launcher to access them. Still, if you take a look at the reviews for these new Bethesda games on the Xbox app, you can see many users complaining about lackluster mod support, general instability, and more. It's like the Xbox Game Pass versions of these games are slightly inferior to the one available on Steam or the Bethesda Launcher.
Don't be mistaken, Xbox Game Pass for PC remains a great value, but there’s a persisting sentiment that Microsoft is treating subscribers as second-class citizens compared to Xbox Game Pass for Console members. We see this every time a big AAA game joins the Xbox Game Pass for Console catalog, but not the PC one. We have a recent example with Square Enix’s Outriders, which will launch day one on Xbox Game Pass for Console on April 1, but PC subscribers won’t get to enjoy it. This apparently disappointed many including former Xbox CVP Mike Ybarra, who publicly asked his former colleagues on Twitter to "to up your focus on the PC side of Game Pass."
You all have to up your focus on the PC side of Game Pass. All screens is all screens. Needs more consistency.
— Mike Ybarra (@Qwik) March 15, 2021
Microsoft really deserves credit for adding more value to Xbox Game Pass by adding freebies like EA Play and Xbox Cloud Gaming on Android, but Xbox Game Pass for PC really deserves more attention. The Xbox app and the Windows 10 Microsoft continue to offer a lackluster experience compared to other apps like Steam or the Epic Games Store, and asking Xbox Game Pass for PC members to download another game launcher to access EA Play games isn't what I call a great experience.
Xbox Game Pass for PC also suffers from offering inconsistent experiences to PC gamers, with some games supporting features like Xbox Live cloud saves and achievements, but many of them don't. I'm happy to have access to PC games as part of my Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, but I'm not certain I would pay for Xbox Game Pass for PC if I was exclusively gaming on PC. With EA now offering EA Play on Steam, I really wonder if Microsoft wouldn't have a lot to gain by also offering Xbox Game Pass for PC on Valve's much popular gaming platform.