Xbox Game Pass offers a fantastic line-up of games from Xbox’s first-party catalog alongside a number of third-party titles, with some being removed and others being added frequently. These games are available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Windows PC, and mobile devices through Xbox Cloud Gaming.
However, the PC side of things is questionable. I don’t own an Xbox Series X|S and I never use Xbox’s cloud gaming, but I’ve been a subscriber to Xbox PC Game Pass for a few years now. Infuriatingly, half the time I decide to actually use my subscription, the game I want to play won’t work. Most recently, this happened to me when booting up Grounded, which would unexpectedly crash within a few minutes of launching the game.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been faced with an unplayable Xbox title on PC, and I can’t imagine it’ll be the last. Considering how much I pay for Xbox Game Pass yearly, the state of the application is unacceptable. I’m not the only one with this issue either, and the multiple times I’ve tried to google solutions, the answer always boils down to “get it on Steam.”
The Xbox app is an absolute nightmare and the worst launcher I’ve had to put up with on PC, and I can only hope Xbox puts the work in to fix it.
I got into Halo Infinite around the time of its launch and enjoyed playing it on and off for a couple months, but an abrupt update made it unplayable. I’d launch the game and it would crash within five minutes of playing, even if I was in the main menu. If I managed to get past the main menu, it would happen soon after stepping into a multiplayer match.
I uninstalled the game, uninstalled the entire Xbox launcher, and I even swapped out GPUs to see if that was somehow the issue. But none of that worked. I’d occasionally hop back onto Halo Infinite over the course of several months to see if the game was finally fixed, and it never worked. A couple of months ago, Halo Infinite finally fixed itself, but for nearly half a year, the game didn’t work and I was unable to play it with my friends.
These issues continued with the launch of Grounded, and the problem itself was similar. I’d launch the game, jump into a world, and only get to play for up to five minutes before it crashed. This happened several times before I decided to give up, and while it might seem like the result of the game itself, I looked online and quickly found out players who faced similar issues resolved that problem by buying the game on Steam. But frankly, I am far too stubborn (and cheap) to purchase a game I’m barely interested in when I should have access to it through a subscription I’ve been paying for years now.
Fallout 76 also would not work for me, as I couldn’t even get past the login screen without it breaking, and once again, I didn’t care enough about the game to troubleshoot further. From what I’d looked into online, it seemed to be another case where these problems are easily fixed by purchasing the game on Steam.
The Xbox app’s issues don’t end at some games being unplayable. Sometimes, when I launch the Xbox app, a majority of my games will be missing. I normally fix this by restarting my computer entirely, but the games only occasionally come back if I restart the application a few times. I also get signed out of my Xbox account abruptly, and when I try to sign back in, my whole computer freaks out and once again, I need to restart it.
I also had trouble with Disney's Dreamlight Valley; it would launch normally when I first downloaded it, but whenever I quit the application, it refused to launch again. I’d get an unexpected error about how it couldn’t find the game anymore, and this was another situation where I was only able to fix this by restarting my computer. I never found a way to get around this issue, but it didn’t seem to be something impacting users on other platforms.
It’s also hard to play certain games on the Xbox app on PC when other platforms are more optimized for mods and add-ons. When I decided it was time to play Arx Fatalis, which is Arkane Studios’ very first game, I figured I might as well utilize Xbox Game Pass. However, a popular mod called Arx Libertatis makes major fixes to the game that I didn’t want to go without. Due to the archaic nature of the app’s file storage, I was unable to apply the mod to the Xbox Game Pass version of the game, but I was easily able to apply it to the Steam version when I purchased it later.
Xbox is listening, so they need to do better
Even with all of these issues, it’s clear that Xbox is listening as one of the application’s biggest flaws was eventually fixed. This had to do with the pathing locations for each game, as it used to be jargon when compared to downloading games on other apps.
For example, finding where a game is stored locally on your system isn’t much of a hassle if you’ve downloaded it through Steam. Select the Steam folder on your drive, select steamapps and then go to common to have every game downloaded on the drive listed in alphabetical order. And when opening a game’s folder, the contents are broken up pretty clearly depending on the type of game it is, making it easy to install mods or add-ons.
Beforehand, the Xbox PC app would save games in the WindowsApps folder (which is a pain in the butt to access due to how permissions work) with folders randomly assigned numbers. It was encrypted and pretty much impossible to access without some third-party software, which made it a hassle to add mods or modify files in any way. Now, you can just go to XboxGames and find them listed in alphabetical order.
I can only hope that this means Microsoft is willing to do the work to fix the Xbox application. If they can rework how download pathing functions, surely the company can put more resources into ensuring the user experience of its primary PC application is actually solid.
Xbox Game Pass features a fantastic collection of games, but its presence on PC needs some serious work. I’ve begun to feel cheated spending so much money every year on a service that only functions half of the time.
When it works, it’s great, but some of the biggest games from Xbox’s recent catalog have not worked properly, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories in the community that make me wonder why Microsoft isn’t working harder to fix it.
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Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.