Xbox One won’t tell you when new game episodes are released

Buying Season Passes unfortunately doesn’t mean your console will regularly deliver new episodes to games you own as they’re released.

After purchasing a Season Pass for an episodic game like Life is Strange and Tales from the Borderlands on Xbox One, you might have expected to get new episodes delivered onto your console as they’re released. However, the Xbox is keeping very quiet about new episodes and don’t show any initiative to download nor put them in front of players.

There’s no system in place on the console for letting players know there are new episodes available for episodic games they own or subscribe to. Episodic games are given the same silent treatment as any other downloadable content (DLC).

The Xbox One has a system-wide notification center that are used by the system for game achievements, DVR functions, social and messaging, and other trivial things that are collected in a central place; never to be looked at again. The only places you can find new episodes are in the Store, Game hub, or in the Manage game screen. Out of these rarely visited places, only Manage game puts new downloads front and center.

If you’ve bought a Season Pass for all episodes of a game, you kind of expect new episodes to be put front and center on the Xbox Home screen as they become available. There are three tiles on the Home screen reserved for “Featured” content, but these usually turns out to be advertisements for new games and sometimes you even see great offers on games you already own and have installed. As episodes are considered add-on content and not an update to the game itself, the console will not automatically download and apply episodes as updates.

The promotional websites for two of the coolest episodic games right now—Life is Strange from Square Enix and Tales from the Borderlands by Telltale Games—haven’t created emailing lists were interested players can join up to be notified of new episodes either. I suspect everyone involved know only too well when the releases happen; so they don’t see being told about new content as a problem the same way players do.

Life is Strange have released episodes every 6,5 weeks and Tales from the Borderlands every 10 weeks. That is more than enough time to forget all about the game and any future episode you may have been looking forward to. Personally, I’m usually 10–20 days late on finding out about new episodes and getting around to playing them despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoy both games.

Getting to know that there’s a new episode available for your game is only half the battle. An average episode of Life is Strange takes around 3,1 GB to download. Which means you’ll wait 10–40 minutes on the download and another 2–10 on the installation. Xbox One will by default be in Instant-On power mode; a mode where the system is supposed to pull in updates automatically. Had new game episodes been considered an update to an already installed game rather than a separate piece of downloadable content, it would mean it could have been automatically queued and downloaded in the background. Effectively saving you the 50-minute wait before getting to play the next episode of a game.

I made a video showing how to find and download new game episodes (above) to demonstrate how deeply new episodes are hidden within the menus. You’ve got to go to My apps and games, select the game, press the Menu button, and then optimistically wait for new content that may or may not have been released yet. You can also use a game’s Hub on the Xbox. A hub will list all available downloads if you scroll to the far right screen of the hub, but it will not indicate whether you’ve downloaded a specific episodes or not.

A redesigned Xbox One dashboard update powered by Windows 10 is expected towards the end of this year. From the few seconds of preview videos that have been made available so far, there doesn’t appear to have been any changes made to how episodic game deliveries will work. I’m, of course, hoping for auto-download and proper notifications in the next update but it doesn’t seem to be one of Microsoft’s priorities. While we wait for a better episodic delivery system, we’ll just have to recheck each episodic game for new content every week.