It is no secret that Microsoft is expanding the reach of the Xbox brand. Steve Ballmer's idea was to make Xbox the all-inclusive media brand, but under Satya Nadella, Xbox has returned to its gaming roots, but in a big way. Rather than just being a gaming console, Xbox represents Microsoft's gaming ambitions across everything running the OneCore: Xbox One, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Holographic.
This week, the company added a couple of new features to the Xbox ecosystem that will give you even more reasons to spend more time in the Xbox world.
Xbox Live Creators Program
As the Windows 10 Creators Update gets closer to the public, Xbox wants to embrace the community that they are cultivating. With that comes the new Xbox Live Creators Program, a new way for really indie developers to publish games to the Xbox ecosystem. The program is not intended to replace ID@Xbox, the program where large indie developers can publish fully-qualified Xbox titles. Instead, this is intended for much smaller shops, or single developers, looking for exposure.
Creators will have access to a much smaller subset of Xbox APIs. For example, they can access Xbox Live account information, but cannot publish achievements. They can create achievements and hubs, but cannot use Xbox Live multiplayer capabilities. Also, games must be UWP applications created using Construct 2, MonoGame, Unity or Xenko.
Because these games are required to be UWP, that means that they can run on Xbox One, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Holographic, all with a single publish. The breadth of platforms available places the Creators Program above Valve's new Steam Direct, a similar program, but with a very limited availability.
Xbox Game Pass
Another new way to get new games to play is the Xbox Game Pass. Premiering with more than 100 titles, this new subscription service will give a variety of titles for a single monthly price. For $10, you will see Xbox One titles, like Halo 5: Guardians, and Xbox 360 titles, like Gears of War. There are RPG titles like Fable and sports titles, like NBA 2K16.
While this is similar to PlayStation Now, it has a few major enhancements. For example, while Now only allows streaming of titles, allowing for gaming lag, Game Pass allows you to download the titles to your console. Now only offers access to older titles, while Game Pass will give access to more modern Xbox One content. Also, Now runs $20 per month, while Game Pass will come in at only $10 per month.
Obviously, games will cycle in and out of the program, so that new games are always available to try out. If a game leaves the program, and you want to keep access to it, Xbox will offer you a discount to purchase it. We don't have an official launch date, but Xbox Insiders can try out a preview of the service this week.