Did Microsoft just revolutionize gaming as we know it with Xbox Game Pass?
In November 2002 Microsoft launched Xbox Live and many critics turned their noses down at it citing a lack of broadband adoption in the early 2000’s. Ultimately Xbox Live turned out to be one of the biggest contributions to gaming ever and everyone has been playing catch up since.
Fast forward to June 2017 and Microsoft launches a service called Xbox Game Pass. It offers users the ability to download games from a rotating catalog for a monthly subscription fee. The service is most commonly compared Netflix. Since 2014 Sony has offered a similar service to lukewarm reviews. PlayStation Now offers a rotating catalog of games for a monthly subscription however the games are streamed. Because of this users require a high speed internet connection to avoid lag and other errors. With Game Pass this issue is avoided because you download the game onto your hard drive for play, which makes the new service infinitely more appealing to gamers.
Game Pass has had a quiet initial 6 months as Microsoft gauged interest and demands. Then in January 2018 Phil Spencer dropped a bombshell announcement: All Xbox first party studio games will launch day and date on Game Pass. To many people this doesn’t seem like a big addition but, if we look at the numbers this has the potential to be huge.
If we look at the Top 10 games in sales for both PS4 and Xbox One since launch we see a major trend: 3rd party games dominate the charts. Xbox has positioned themselves as the best way to play 3rd party games. By adding Game Pass to the console they add immense value.
By including 1st party games in Game Pass they give gamers a huge catalog to play as much (or as little) as they want. As a parent this means saving money and providing more games for your kids. As a gamer this means no more losing half the value on a trade in for new triple A titles.
From a business standpoint Microsoft also has just made their 1st party titles even more attractive. Someone unwilling to spend $60 USD on a game might be willing to “try it” for $10. Once the hook is set all they need to do is give people a reason to stay subscribed.
How does this translate to the rest of the industry? For Nintendo it doesn’t work in the same manner. Their top 10 games of 2017 included 9 first party offerings and they can’t lose that revenue. But by offering a rotating catalog of Nintendo classics (NES to Wii) they can augment their already thriving Indie scene and provide a massive boost in goodwill and service.
Sony is playing from a position of power right now and I don’t see them making this swap. They have a large install base and a strong stable of 1st party games. Until this changes, or Microsoft shows massive success, they are unlikely to follow suit. That being said, it wouldn’t be the first time Microsoft lead the charge on a major change to the way we play games.
I think we are going to look back on January 2018 as the day the game changed.