Last year, Microsoft launched the Xbox Game Pass. This pass, which costs just $10/month, gives you access to a decently sized library of full games that you can download and play as much as you want, just like EA’s EA/Origin Access service. It’s a Netflix for games essentially, except less streaming and more downloading(And to be clear, PS Now is all streaming and costs a lot more.). Over time Microsoft slowly added their back catalog of first party titles in addition to backwards compatible titles and select third party titles. Now, however, Microsoft has made the big announcement that going forward, all Microsoft first party titles, both announced and unannounced, will be part of the pass AND will be available on day one.
Now, this is big. Because these games are now part of the Game Pass, you don’t have to outright buy them for full price. You don’t have to buy them at all. Just pay the subscription free every month and you’ll have access to these games forever. Now, if you’re concerned about “owning” the game, you can still buy it to keep forever even if you drop the pass, but with the pass you will get a discount on the game should you decide to outright buy it.
Of course, there is something about Game Pass that some people don’t realize. I’ve seen it all over the internet in comments sections: “Is this just for Xbox?” The answer is no, it is not just for Xbox. Yes, it is called the Xbox Games Pass, and to my knowledge you can only subscribe from an Xbox(Could be wrong though. Might be able to do it through the Xbox site, haven’t tried yet.), however, a lot of first party Xbox titles are Play Anywhere titles now, meaning if you buy the game digitally on either an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC through the Windows Store, you get a copy for the other system as well. Buy a game on PC, get it on Xbox and vice versa. So you pay for the pass, and you can get Halo Wars 2 on PC if that’s where you prefer to play it because it’s a Play Anywhere title. And going forward all first party games are supposed to be Play Anywhere titles. State of Decay 2, Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, Gears of War 5, Halo 6, Forza Horizon 4, Fable 4, probably Ori and the Will of the Wisps, all of those games will be yours to play, day one, if you’re subscribed to Xbox Games Pass and you can play them on whatever system you choose.
This has the potential for huge benefits. As an example, I have honestly not been keeping up with Sea of Thieves because my interest in shared world games fell off a cliff a while ago, and I probably wouldn’t touch it otherwise. But with Game Pass, I don’t have to fork over $60 just to try the game and see if I like it, I can just download it for free, play it, and then delete it from my system if it just doesn’t work for me. Same for Crackdown 3, not terribly interested in it, but I might just try it now. And there are likely many others with that same frame of mind. Now they don’t have to pay this premium for entry and will give games a shot that they might not have otherwise. Player counts might go through the roof because of this.
When you’re a consumer looking at this deal, it’s to think “Wow, there are no negatives to this!” And that isn’t entirely untrue. This is a fantastic deal for consumers, just as it is for EA’s library(quality of games not withstanding.), and you probably won’t notice and negatives. But from a business perspective, there might be some issues. Rather than each game selling for $60 a copy and making millions of dollars, now Microsoft is trying to rake in $10 subscriptions from as many people as possible, and this won’t stop their games from have microtransactions. That’s not to say, however, that making a sizable profit off of this is impossible. If we assume the number of Xbox One’s in homes is somewhere between 30 million and 35 million, we’ll go with 35 for arguments sake, if all 35 million of those users have Xbox Live, and all of them grab the Xbox Game Pass and pay $10/month, Microsoft just raked in $350 million in a single month. Now, if we expand that to the whole year, assuming no one drops the pass, Microsoft just raked in $4.2 billion.
At that point, Microsoft no longer has to care how many copies a game sells, because they made back their investment and so much more within a single month. Any cash made from game sales and microtransactions is a bonus to them. Game sales may no longer decide whether a game is a success or failure, whether it lives or dies. Now it’s all about how many people download the game, and how many people keep playing it month after month. If the population hits rock bottom not long after launch, game failed, game is dead. At the same time though, a games failure no longer has to be a death sentence for the studio that developed it. Microsoft may have invested a lot in that failures development, but no big deal, they made it all back in one month from game pass subscriptions. Now try to make a game that won’t fail.
It’s an interesting future to think about should Microsoft’s gamble pay off and I’m very tempted to buy into it. I’ve been wanting to try Quantum Break and ReCore: Definitive Edition for some time now, but never pulled the trigger. Game Pass has both, and I can play them as much as I want for just $10 a month, and in a few months I’ll be playing State of Decay 2 for the same low price of $10. Same goes for Halo Wars 2. I want to get it, but none of my friends have it, so really I’ll just play the campaign of a $40 game($60 for the full game plus expansion.), maybe dip into a multiplayer a bit and forget about it, but with Game Pass I don’t have to worry about not getting my money’s worth because I’m only paying $10 a month. I pay more for Netflix.
If both Sony and Nintendo adopted this idea, I’d be all for it. There are already musings that Nintendo might go this route for the Switch’s virtual console, and that’d be interesting if true. However, I don’t expect Sony to try it any time soon. They’re content with the way things are.