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Microsoft boosts Xbox Game Pass with better third-party support

Phoenix Point and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 will hit the service day-and-date, all games to launch "twice as fast" through machine learning

Microsoft has made significant improvements to Xbox Game Pass, with the subscription service's first day-and-date third party releases and the promise of faster game launching through machine learning.

In the company's E3 press briefing yesterday, the company revealed a greater level of support for the service from both Bethesda and Ubisoft: Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited and Tom Clancy's The Division will all be added to the service this year.

More significantly, four third party games will be released on Xbox Game Pass on the same day they launch on Xbox One: Fatshark's Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Aurora44's Ashen, Night School's Afterparty and Snapshot's Phoenix Point.

Previously, only first party games like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 had hit the service on the day of release. And Microsoft reiterated that this will continue to be the case, with Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3 and Gears of War 5 all available day-and-date for the $10 a month fee.

"We've been thrilled to see the positive impact Xbox Game Pass is having on the gaming ecosystem, including increasing the number of titles gamers play nearly 40 per cent and increasing gameplay hours by almost 20 per cent," said Microsoft's CMO of Gaming Mike Nichols in a statement.

Microsoft is also working towards improving the speed of Xbox Game Pass, which uses downloads rather than streaming. A new machine learning technology called FastStart will be added in this month's update, which identifies the files necessary to start playing and downloads them first. In doing so, Microsoft has claimed that Game Pass users will be able to start a game "twice as fast" at "full-fidelity".

The other big story to emerge at yesterday's E3 briefing was Microsoft's acquisition of four studios, including Ninja Theory and Playground Games. The need for Xbox to improve its first-party strategy was a big talking point ahead of E3, and yesterday's event was a positive step toward addressing that concern.

You can read our full summary of what happened at the Xbox E3 press briefing here.

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Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.