Game Pass

The most important game of the century is finally back on Xbox Game Pass

This could be Microsoft's secret weapon for cloud gaming.

Xbox Game Pass keeps getting better. The service has added plenty of hits recently between an avalanche of Bethesda games, fascinating indies like Genesis Noir, and new releases such as Outriders. For current subscribers, it’s a bit of a golden age for the service.

It appears that it’s only getting better too. April brings tons of new games to the service, including MLB The Show 21, but its biggest addition is an oldie. And not just a retro classic, either. Xbox Game Pass is getting arguably the most important video game of the past decade: Grand Theft Auto V.

If you’re feeling a sense of deja vu, that’s because this isn’t the first time Rockstar’s open world game has been available on the service. Grand Theft Auto V was a staple of Game Pass for a while until it left the service in May 2020. It was replaced by Red Dead Redemption 2, which cushioned the blow, but that left the service shortly after.

All that’s to say that GTA 5’s return is kind of a big deal.

It’s a crucial move for Microsoft, who is tripling down on Game Pass. By continuing to lock down games like this, it’s simply adding more value to the platform. Not only can players get brand new first-party games with their subscription, but they’ll also gain access to what’s becoming a greatest hits collection of modern games.

GTA 5 is about as big as they come. First released in 2013, the game is a sales juggernaut that only continues to grow. The game sold 20 million units in 2020 — its best year since the game launched. Despite it being so old, people are still buying it en masse. Now imagine those 20 million players just subscribing to Game Pass instead.

The move isn’t just about adding GTA 5 to Game Pass’ ever-expanding library; it also services a killer app for Microsoft’s cloud gaming service. The game will be available for cloud players when it returns, meaning that Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can stream it to their phone. Considering how popular GTA 5 still is, that’s a massive addition to the service.

Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V causing a ruckus. Rockstar

It’s coming just in time too. Microsoft will expand its cloud offering to iOS this spring. Having something as big as GTA 5 ready to play on day one could be exactly what Microsoft needs to break through the cloud streaming wars. The game was rumored to be hitting Google Stadia last year, but that never materialized. Now Microsoft has a strong advantage over its competitors.

Perhaps most importantly of all, it puts fresh eyes on Rockstar and Microsoft’s relationship. Considering Microsoft’s recent Bethesda acquisition, any move it makes should be watched closely these days. Microsoft is making major waves when it comes to locking down third-party games. Keeping a good rapport with Rockstar could lead to a game like Grand Theft Auto 6 launching on Game Pass down the line.

All the big-picture implications aside, the real exciting news is simply that an excellent game is back on Game Pass. For subscribers who missed it the first time, it’s a great excuse to dive in and try out a game whose legacy is as big as its world.

Grand Theft Auto V is available for Xbox Game Pass subscribers on Xbox consoles and Android devices.

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