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Xbox Game Pass Now Adding Surprise Free Games

Xbox Game Pass Now Adding Surprise Free Games

A happy and big Santa with an Xbox Game Pass logo as his head.

Photo: Xbox / Kotaku / Amy Sussman (Getty Images)

Xbox Game Pass has slowly become one of the best deals in video games, offering players a large library of new and old titles across PC and Xbox at a pretty decent price. And now Microsoft has started tossing in surprise games, like Generation Zero and Townscaper, with no announcement or teaser, making for pleasant surprises when checking what’s on Game Pass each week. (Spoilers! -Ed.)

Yesterday, Microsoft announced all the new games coming to Xbox Game Pass this December. It’s a good list, featuring some big games and bangers, including Halo Infinite and Stardew Valley. Yet, if you log in to Game Pass today, you’ll notice that the lovely city builder Townscaper, which was not part of that December list, is also available to play via the service. It’s yet another example of Microsoft sneaking in a surprise game into its popular subscription service.

This happened just a few days ago with Generation Zero, a first-person survival-focused shooter first released in 2019. It popped up on Game Pass on November 30, with no announcement or teaser from Xbox or Microsoft. Eventually, the company let folks know that the game was part of its Game Pass library, but its appearance was a genuine surprise at the time.

Townscaper followed a similar route, appearing on Game Pass today with no formal announcement from Microsoft ahead of time. I’m certainly not complaining! Townscaper is a perfectly cozy December surprise.

I have no idea why Microsoft is starting to sneak games onto Game Pass. Perhaps the devs or publishers behind these games are missing deadlines, so slipping in after a big press rollout happens. Or perhaps they are requesting the secret release, hoping for sites and players to talk about it online, bringing more attention to its games. (Thankfully, we’d never fall for a trick as obvious as that.)

Personally, I’m a big fan of finding new, free games when I boot up Game Pass on my Xbox or PC. I check it regularly now, both to catch up on smaller games I missed, and to see if papa Xbox has slipped in a little extra gift for me (and the millions of Game Pass subscribers.) In 2021, unspoilt surprises are fairly rare. Movies are leaked and announced years before they release, game events are data mined weeks in advance, and most other things get teased endlessly before finally coming out. Genuine surprises, even tiny ones like a small game appearing on Game Pass with no warning, are a treat. So I’m happy to get a few extra games each month. Keep it coming, Xbox.