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Xbox in August 2022: Games with Gold Lags as Game Pass Shines

Xbox Games with Gold August 2022

Another month, another batch of new Xbox games to dig into. August 2022 brings a fresh selection of titles to the Games with Gold program, including the life sim Calico, tough-as-nails platformer ScourgeBringer, and open-world crime classics Saints Row 2 and Monaco: What‘s Yours Is Mine.

Meanwhile, Xbox Game Pass is loaded with hotly anticipated releases like campus management sim Two Point Campus and tactical co-op shooter Ghost Recon Wildlands. Several promising indie games also make the cut, including the 90s Hollywood mystery Immortality and over-the-top beat-em-up Midnight Fight Express.

But which service comes out on top for August? As a lifelong gamer and Digital Technology Expert, I‘ve pored over the release calendars, crunched the numbers, and sampled the goods to bring you the final word. Let‘s break it all down!

Games with Gold: By the Numbers

Here‘s a quick overview of the four games Gold subscribers can claim for August:

Game Release Date Metacritic Score User Score
Calico December 15, 2020 54 6.6
ScourgeBringer October 21, 2020 80 7.8
Saints Row 2 October 14, 2008 81 7.5
Monaco April 24, 2013 83 7.9

At first glance, it‘s a surprisingly uneven lineup. Calico reviewed very poorly upon release, with critics slamming its shallow gameplay loop and numerous bugs. It‘s the lowest-rated Games with Gold title in quite some time.

ScourgeBringer, on the other hand, fared much better. Reviewers praised its snappy combat and devilishly clever level design. It was a hit with the hardcore platformer crowd and sold over 60,000 copies in its first year.

The two throwback games are the clear standouts from a critical perspective. Both Saints Row 2 and Monaco earned high marks for their memorable characters, entertaining co-op play, and sheer gameplay variety.

Saints Row 2 in particular still has a passionate fanbase to this day. Many consider it the high point of the series thanks to its impressive open world and over-the-top action. It‘s not hard to see why–there‘s an absurd amount of content packed in, from wacky side activities to character customization:

Saints Row 2 Customization
Source: GameSpot

While the graphics and controls may feel dated 14 years later, the core Saints Row 2 experience holds up remarkably well. And with a ground-up series reboot set to launch on August 23, now‘s the perfect time to revisit Volition‘s beloved crime saga.

So despite Calico‘s disappointing reception, August‘s Games with Gold still has some solid offerings, especially for fans of co-op chaos. But how does it stack up to previous lineups?

A Sign of the Times?

To put it bluntly, August 2022 marks a new low for the Games with Gold program. Calico is one of the lowest-rated games to ever join the service, and the lack of a third Xbox 360 title stings after so many years of robust back-compat support.

It doesn‘t help that recent months have seen Microsoft shifting first-party games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 to Game Pass rather than Games with Gold. Some gamers are understandably frustrated by this trend:

Microsoft not adding any AAA first-party games to GWG was the beginning of the end for [the service]. It showed they were putting all of their chips into Game Pass to take on Sony rather than investing in Gold which was losing value each year.
— @JezCorden, Windows Central

With the 360 offerings set to end altogether in October, it‘s clear that Games with Gold is a fading priority for Microsoft. The company seems fully committed to Game Pass as its flagship subscription service.

But that‘s not necessarily bad news for Xbox gamers. Because August‘s Game Pass lineup? It slaps hard.

Game Pass: Welcome to the Boom Period

While you‘d be forgiven for sleeping on this month‘s Games with Gold, you‘d be a fool to ignore the tsunami of exciting Game Pass releases. August 2022 is hands down one of the service‘s most stacked months yet.

The one-two punch of Two Point Campus and Ghost Recon Wildlands would be impressive enough. But Microsoft is packing the rest of the month with high-profile indie games and beloved older titles.

For simulation fans, Two Point Campus promises a deep, goofy university management experience with endless room for creativity. After the breakout success of 2018‘s Two Point Hospital, expectations are sky high. Early hands-on previews suggest it will deliver.

Two Point Campus is a ridiculously quirky take on building a university that is brimming with the studio‘s signature humor. Even in an early build, it perfectly balances its comedy with a surprising level of complexity that lets you fine-tune every element of your zany campus.

Then there‘s Immortality, the latest mindbending mystery from Her Story creator Sam Barlow. Early buzz is extremely positive, with many critics blown away by the ambitious premise and inventive gameplay. It could end up being one of the year‘s most talked-about games.

Several lesser-known but highly promising games also join Game Pass in August. Midnight Fight Express is a deliriously violent brawler in the vein of Streets of Rage or Hotline Miami. And Turbo Golf Racing looks to capture the chaotic multiplayer magic of Rocket League–with a heavy dose of Wii Sports thrown in for good measure.

But Game Pass isn‘t just serving up hot new releases. August also sees several acclaimed older games hitting the service:

  • Ghost Recon Wildlands: Ubisoft‘s sprawling open-world co-op shooter was a hit back in 2017, selling over 5 million copies in its first year. Its reactive sandbox gameplay should shine on Game Pass.

  • Shenzhen I/O: Zachtronics‘ fiendishly difficult programming puzzle game tasks you with coding various industrial electronics. It‘s a must-play for software engineer types and aspiring tech heads.

  • Cooking Simulator: This wacky culinary sim challenges you to run a bustling restaurant kitchen without burning everything to a crisp. It‘s been a quiet hit on PC, with an "Overwhelmingly Positive" rating on Steam.

Factor in the ongoing heavy hitters like Minecraft, Forza Horizon 5, and the entire Halo saga, and you‘ve got an insanely compelling Game Pass lineup. In terms of sheer volume and variety, August 2022 has to be one of the service‘s biggest months yet.

The Game Pass Boom Continues

Game Pass Subscribers Over Time
Source: TweakTown

Zooming out, it‘s clear that Game Pass has been on an absolute tear lately. The service has seen explosive growth, shooting past 25 million subscribers in January 2022. For context, that‘s up from 18 million just a year prior–a 38% increase.

It‘s not hard to see why. Microsoft has been incredibly aggressive about adding high-quality games to the service, both from its own studios and third-party partners. Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Age of Empires IV, Psychonauts 2…the list of top-tier first-party additions goes on and on.

This steady stream of must-play games is enticing more and more gamers to take the Game Pass plunge. And once they‘re in, they tend to play more games and spend more money overall. According to Microsoft, Game Pass subscribers play 40% more games and spend 50% more than non-subscribers.

Game Pass is also changing the way games are marketed and released. Many indie developers now factor a Game Pass launch into their plans from day one. And several major publishers like Square Enix have experimented with adding their games to the service on release day.

Xbox Game Pass is one of the most important things Microsoft has ever done for its gaming business. Every game it makes going forward and every studio it signs feeds into this larger service that is all but guaranteed to further expand the…base of users over the next generation.
— @JeffGrubb, VentureBeat

In short, Game Pass is becoming a bigger and bigger part of Microsoft‘s gaming strategy–and the industry at large. The days of Games with Gold being the premier Xbox subscription perk are long gone. All hail our Game Pass overlords!

The Bottom Line: Ride the Game Pass Wave

When you step back and compare the two services, the writing is on the wall. Game Pass continues its red-hot streak with a slew of exciting August additions, while Games with Gold limps along with an underwhelming lineup and an uncertain future.

Game Pass vs Games with Gold

My advice? If you can only afford one subscription, go with Game Pass or Game Pass Ultimate. The value proposition is simply unbeatable at this point. With all Microsoft first-party titles included from day one, a growing library of third-party hits, and now a strong August showing, you‘ll always have something new and noteworthy to play.

That‘s not to say Games with Gold is totally without merit. ScourgeBringer still has its charms for masochistic platformer fans, and the two 360 offerings are both stone-cold classics well worth revisiting. Just keep those expectations in check.

However you get your gaming fix this month, there‘s plenty to keep you busy through the dog days of summer. Crack those knuckles, kiss your loved ones goodbye, and get ready to no-life your virtual campus/cartel/film studio. See you on the other side!