This week, Microsoft announced some majors changes coming to their subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. Currently, Game Pass gives subscribers access to a library of over 100 games, with the library rotating from time to time. The change coming to the service in March, has the potential to shake up many aspects of the industry.
The decision to include Microsoft published games on launch day is surely going to surge the subscriber numbers in the months that big titles launch. The first of which is the highly anticipated, open-world pirate game, Sea of Thieves, launching on March 20th, for purchase at retail, digitally, and as a download on Game Pass. Other announced titles would include State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3 as well as future titles in the Halo, Gears of War, and Forza franchises. This would also extend into any major title published by Microsoft in the future.
Though, with the reality of holes in the release windows of many of these first party titles, this could open up the opportunity for third party partners to allow one of their major releases to be the highlight of a month and receive special treatment on Game Pass. Not only that, it allows the focus to shift to indie games if Microsoft wants to pursue that avenue. Another anecdote worth noting, is that Phil Spencer has mentioned in the past the interest in releasing exclusive gaming experiences on the Game Pass platform– akin to how Netflix has it’s own shows.
Though some might speculate that putting these titles on the service on launch day could impact overall game sales numbers, with the trend of game purchases moving towards digital sales, it would only make sense that a future in which subscription services for gaming becomes more prevalent since all forms of media are becoming focused on that front. Granted, with the established nature of Game Pass rotating out games every few months, they could use this as a way to tantalize gamers on the fence about purchasing certain games, giving them a taste of something for a relatively low entry fee, and if they fall in love and the game leaves a month or two later, it may incentivize them to then go out and purchase the game itself. So this method could potentially get gamers in the subscription service forking over money monthly as well as eventually purchasing the game to keep it. Not only that, this would give some of these games larger communities of gamers at launch since some gamers will be undoubtedly dipping their toes in with Game Pass.
It will also be interesting to see how this affects retailers in general, with companies like Amazon and Best Buy offering memberships to receive discounts on games purchased, the opportunity to play big budget, first party titles for $10 on launch instead of $48-$60 is an easy decision for many players. Though, if this pans out in Microsofts favor, as consumers we can hopefully look forward to retailers offering better incentives to purchase new games at their storefronts and potentially urge other publishers creating similar services.