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High On Life sets Xbox Game Pass records as ‘biggest 2022 launch’

Squanch Games’ silly sci-fi shooter is the most popular game on Microsoft’s subscription service

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Key art from High On Life, showing a person in a spacesuit aiming a sentient, smiling alien gun at a cowering enemy Image: Squanch Games
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Squanch Games’ silly sci-fi shooter High On Life is not only the most popular game on Game Pass right now, it’s the biggest Game Pass release of 2022 and the biggest third-party launch in Game Pass history, according to Microsoft. Not content with just two records, High On Life is also the “biggest single-player game launch on Game Pass ever,” based on “the number of hours played in the first five days of release,” Microsoft says.

As of Monday, Squanch Games’ new Xbox and Windows PC release was the most popular game on Game Pass, outpacing other titles on the service like Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Minecraft, FIFA 22, Forza Horizon 5, Rainbow Six Siege, and Halo Infinite on console and PC. That’s an impressive feat for a game independently published through Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program, but there are a few reasons that help explain why High On Life managed to set so many records.

For one, High On Life is not available on competing platforms — there’s no Nintendo Switch or PlayStation version of the game. It’s a de facto Microsoft exclusive. High On Life also dropped during the typically slower month of December, where new game releases are few and far between, meaning it had little compete with.

Game Pass hasn’t seen many AAA marquee releases in 2022; the delays of Arkane’s Redfall and Bethesda’s Starfield to 2023 meant that Microsoft’s lineup for this year was thin compared to the next, when games like Forza Motorsport, Minecraft Legends, and STALKER 2 will also join Game Pass. An original title like High On Life — which comes with a built-in audience, thanks to Squanch Games founder Justin Roiland’s work on Rick and Morty — gets the chance to stand out and set records in this environment.

It helps that High On Life is a pretty good game in its own right, with decent shooting and solid first-person traversal, drawing some of its inspiration from the Metroid Prime games. Whether Roiland’s brand of humor aligns with yours is another story. But it’s the perfect example of a Game Pass game, as Polygon’s Ryan Gilliam noted in a recent Sub Gems column:

High on Life is a game that will either make you cringe so hard that you turn it off in the first 10 minutes, or laugh your ass off all the way to the game’s first boss. The beauty is that, with Game Pass, either of those outcomes are perfectly acceptable. Either you’ll find a new game that you’re excited to see through to the end, or you’ll delete it off your hard drive forever and never think about it again — no harm, no foul.

High On Life is playable on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X through Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass both cost $9.99 a month. PC Game Pass includes EA Play access, which offers another 70 games on PC. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, at $14.99 per month, gives subscribers access to everything — the PC Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass libraries, EA Play on both console and PC — as well as Xbox Live Gold membership, which is needed for online multiplayer.

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