Bleeding Edge launched on Xbox and PC recently via Game Pass. If you are a subscriber to that service, you can download and play it as part of your subscription for no additional cost. It is the first game from Ninja Theory to be released as a first party title since the acquisition by Microsoft. Crucially though, it was a game that was already in development before Ninja Theory joined Microsoft Studios. I say crucially, because I think that by launching on Game Pass, Bleeding Edge will get more eyes on it than perhaps would have otherwise happened if it was launched more traditionally.
I am a big fan of Game Pass as a service. I was initially a little sceptical, but over time the library has become extensive with a significant amount of games that I would have never played. First party titles like the Forza Horizon series is one that I know I won’t purchase because I’m not a fan of racing games, and yet I downloaded Forza Horizon 4 and had a good time with it. So much so, that at times I have considered purchasing the LEGO DLC to continue playing. Similarly, Microsoft and SEGA reached a deal to have some of the Yakuza series launch on the service and I have been very much enjoying playing as Kiryu in the weird and wonderful Yakuza 0; and I’m now more interested in taking a look at past and future titles than I would have otherwise been blind to.
For the record, I don’t particularly like Bleeding Edge in it’s current state. There are lots of things that I do like about it, the character models and style, as well as the four vs four game play, however, I do feel that it is a little unbalanced and there are some technical issues that need ironing out. There is tons of potential there, though. The blend of hero-style multiplayer, but melee rather than shooting does mark it out as something a little different (Ubisoft’s For Honor notwithstanding).
“It’s perfect Game Pass fodder” is one description I have heard used to describe it. In some ways I feel that this statement is a little derogatory, but it is worth exploring. I heard similar criticisms thrown at Sea of Thieves, a game that I have been playing virtually daily since its launch in March 2018. Rare’s free-form pirate adventure has been criticised in the past for having very little content, however, over the course of the two years the team has continued to add more and more to the point that Sea of Thieves is one of the strongest examples of how a first party “game pass fodder” game can evolve. Sailing out now is very different from the launch days with environmental dangers such as roaming Skeleton ships, Krakens and Megaladons, to the wonderful story based voyages of the Tall Tales, and, with a regular update schedule, there is always new stuff for experienced pirates to work towards. So much has changed that Sea of Thieves has become one of the strongest games within the first party line-up.
Will Bleeding Edge achieve that level as well? Time will tell, but the success of it will depend on a number of factors. The most obvious of which will be how much it manages to hook players interested in trying it out, but it will also need to evolve with regular updates: a ranked playlist; new characters; different game modes; more cosmetic items to make your character feel unique and so on.
It is perhaps easy to look at Bleeding Edge as a Microsoft first party title and think that it has been relatively unsuccessful. Being a “platform exclusive” brings with it a certain expectation from fans, and this title doesn’t quite match up to that. But I keep thinking back to the fact that this title was never meant to be a first-party title, it is by chance that it was already in development when Ninja Theory agreed their partnership. As such, I think that Game Pass could be the best vehicle for it to continue to grow and evolve, providing the interest is there from players and the team involved in its development. I hope it does have a bright future, it is an interesting and different direction for the Xbox platform than has been there in the past. Much like Sea of Thieves, I feel that Bleeding Edge is the start of Microsoft beginning to take some risks and publish games not traditionally in its wheelhouse.