Microsoft stunned the gaming world today with the announcement that their future first party games would be added to the Game Pass library on their respective launch days. Instead of paying $60 a piece for upcoming games such as Crackdown 3 or Sea of Thieves, you can pay just $10 a month and play them all plus dozens of third party games. The reception so far has been positive judging from responses on social media and gaming forums like ResetEra.
As with any pioneering initiative in the video games industry, this move also raises a lot of questions. Microsoft’s Vice President of Gaming, Phil Spencer, wasted no time sharing his team’s vision for Xbox Game Pass.
One recurring question on gaming forums is whether Microsoft is trying to force us into a subscription model for games with no option for simply purchasing them? Not according to Spencer. “Full, persistent ownership of games is still something we want to deliver. We know we have customers who want to go to a store, buy a case with a disc in it, and really take ownership of their games” he said.
One strength of Game Pass is that it offers a low-risk path to exploring games you may not have been inclined to blindly purchase. Spencer confirms this feature, “”When I see what gamers are doing with Game Pass, when we see the likes of Metal Gear or Gears of War coming in, we see a spike in users, but we also see a really interesting dynamic in what I call the ‘tail’ of games. Games that maybe launched at a time of competitive pressures or something else that caused them to not get the sunshine they should from the market. But these are quality games fitting into an easier way for people to try them out, and we’ve seen some real gems pop in Game Pass.”
The addition of Microsoft’s future titles to the Game Pass service will certainly drive up the subscriber base which in turn could make the program more attractive to third party developers who are pondering whether they should put their own games on the service. “…We’ve seen this with many different games out there, whether it’s free to play games or different ways of acquiring games – that third parties will try out to find a business model that works for them. This is going to be another outlet for them,” said Spencer.
The ramifications this development could have on the industry are interesting to ponder. Nearly eight years ago Sony announced PlayStation Plus which at the time gave optional benefits such as automatic trophy syncing and of course, a handful of games for subscribers to play every month. Plus has undoubtedly had a major impact on the industry with other companies developing similar programs. Now Microsoft has literally taken the concept several steps further by adding brand new games to a subscription service. Will Sony and Nintendo respond in kind?