The Xbox Game Pass as it will be starting in March, is the beginning of Microsoft’s push in not only competing in the game industry, but completely changing it. Having new first party games launching on the service on release day is a very bold move. This is Microsoft telling us that hey if we are struggling to compete with the runaway success of the Playstation 4 then we will just have to change the industry…in our favour.
It is no secret that the Xbox One has been fighting an uphill battle ever since it was shown in 2013 before its launch. The previous leadership surrounding the Xbox had taken the success of the Xbox 360 and unravelled all of the good work that had been done. From having too much focus on TV and media capabilities to the policies surrounding used games that would still haunt the console years after release, Microsoft needed to change and that they did. Not only with the Xbox but for the company as a whole. Competitors were becoming first to market and the hugely successful company from previous years was stagnating. With the appointment of Satya Nadella as only the third CEO of Microsoft in 2014, the company would begin down a path of openness and change that would also become a part of how the Xbox team would function moving forward.
The XBox Game Pass is that one thing that could completely change how we consume our games and be the catalyst for Microsoft really shaking up the industry. With console hardware sales always being such a topic of discussion each month with the NPD results, it’s almost a broken record when we are told the Playstation 4 has sold the most units each month but nobody can underestimate the success that its had. Xbox One has done very well on its own but the Playstation4 has just been a runaway success and both are great for health of the industry. But since Microsoft seems to be lagging behind with hardware sale, especially in Japan where Xbox has never been able to gain traction, it was time for the software giant to do what they always have – bank on software. Furthermore, let other hardware you do have, the Azure servers, be leveraged to drive your main goal. If you’re struggling in a market where competitors could be considered as predominantly hardware companies, then either try and change the market to what is your strength or create a new market where your competitors are forced to enter as well.
This is what the Xbox Game Pass has the potential to do. Its moving away from us buying our software from traditional retail stores and going beyond even owning the games. Its bringing the industry in line with the likes of Netflix and other TV and movie streaming providers with the only difference being that the games are downloaded in full and played locally. A much better solution for gameplay when compared to the Playstation4s streaming services. But the Game Pass is already about to change what it is again with the introduction of new first party games being available on the service on launch day. This was the last hurdle for such a service to overcome so players didn’t need to also buy new release games on top of this monthly subscription. The challenge now for Microsoft is if they could extend the service even more to include third party games. This will be a deciding factor between the service being great and the service being an absolute game changer. I don’t think to many many could ignore so many games being available, plus first party launch games, plus their favourite big budget AAA titles being made available on the service at launch – all for around $10 a month.
Whether the third party games come to the service remains to be seen but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Xbox team is working behind the scenes to secure marketing rights and an exclusive launch period for the game that will only be on Game Pass. This would do wonders for the service but I would prefer for Microsoft to concentrate on their first party offerings instead of making deals to secure an exclusive launch period for a third party game. Effectively keeping it off competitors consoles. I’m of the opinion that this is a bad practice for the industry. If Microsoft can create a large number of quality first party games to add to their existing catalogue then the service will have tremendous value.
If you’re watching this video then chances are you’re a gamer. One who follows the news and everything else that happens in the gaming industry. You know the new games, which ones are coming out and what the various systems offer you as an informed consumer. But you, and I, we are the minority when it comes to how many people actually buy game consoles and games. For the average person who plays games, if they see that they can buy an Xbox One and not need to spend another $60-$100 for a new release game at the same time, and instead just purchase the Game Pass for $10 then this could be the difference between which console is purchased.
If Microsoft can build upon the Game pass and prove to gamers that they do indeed have more unannounced AAA games that will hit the service in the near future then its worth will be proven. Even for gamers who may be on the fence about buying an Xbox One could buy the console and sign up to Game Pass. The outlay is minimal and a great way to try new first party games. An added benefit also is with the older backwards compatible games that perform better on the Xbox One console family, especially the Xbox One X.
The Game Pass initiative is Microsoft once again trying to lead a market instead of following one. To do this was not an overnight decision and would have been in the planning stages for years and including plans on how it will be added to and changed in the future. With the Playstation 4 and Switch moving so many consoles Microsoft is looking to Game Pass to drive more console sales for one but also to have more gamers play their games and use their services across multiple devices. Whether playing Sea Of Thieves on Xbox or on WIndows 10, Microsoft doesn’t seem to mind, as long as they have you as a customer. Apart from the infrastructure needing to be set up, managed and maintained, it goes far beyond this if Sony or Nintendo look to provide a similar service. It requires a dramatic shift in how a company views the gaming industry and what they want it to be. Sony and Nintendo would have no interest in changing how the industry is at the moment, and rightly so, due to their huge success this generation. But as the months and years pass and the world goes even further down a digital path, a world where we stream and consume content without actually buying it, a world where we subscribe to services that we want, how much longer can a Game Pass competitor not exist? And if not, does Microsoft become the lone player offering this type of service in gaming? Can you imagine a world where the latest Uncharted game, Mario, God of War or Zelda could be played for a $10 a month subscription? It seems so unlikely and yet so wanted. Microsoft could be forcing Sony and Nintendo to play by new rules. Time will tell.