Can Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription be the Netflix of gaming?
The subscription model for accessing content pretty much revolutionized how we view our favourite movies and TV shows (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and more) as well as listen to our favourite artists and music albums (Apple Music, Saavn, Gaana and more). Microsoft has taken inspiration from these services, and is significantly improving the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Now, Xbox Game Pass will include all new Xbox One exclusive games from Microsoft Studios on the same date as their global release. This means that the Sea of Thieves, which launches on 20 March, will be included in Xbox Game Pass to all members.
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And it is not just Sea of Thieves, titles such as State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3 will also be a part of the subscription service. The biggest highlight is perhaps that the games arriving in the near future, which remain unannounced yet, will surely be a part of the Xbox Game Pass package. This would include titles from Microsoft Studios, including the next iterations of exclusive franchises such as Halo, Forza and Gears of War—on the same day they launch for all Xbox users.
This means that for Rs699 per month, what you get is unlimited access to games such as Halo 5, Bioshock Infinite, the Metal Gear Solid franchise and more. Xbox users can download full versions of the game on the Xbox One console, and play online or offline. We tried hard, but couldn’t find any conditions that indicate a time limit for playing a title, or that only limited progression would be available or mandatory purchases before the completion of the gameplay.
The big question at the moment is—how long will the games stick to the Xbox Game Pass? For instance, you’d probably be not the best pleased if Sea of Thieves slides off the subscription service just as you have completed 80% of the game. At present, the timelines aren’t very clear. It is unlikely that Microsoft would want to hurt revenues from game sales and in turn annoy developers too. Chances are, the showcase window for these new titles will be a tad limited, hoping that a player would make the conversion to a full purchase once the Xbox Game Pass tenure is over for specific titles. This could eventually make Xbox Game Pass a limited-time but full-fledged demo platform of sorts.
It would be interesting to see if more game publishers join the Xbox Game Pass platform to offer their newest titles on launch day, with the hope that gamers would eventually buy the full game. As things stand, games are expensive to make, and that is why the fairly high price tags. Major publishers still rely on initial sales just after launch, to make the most money.
As we speak, the rejigged Xbox One Game Pass is actually causing some backlash. Austrian retailer Gameware KG, which deals in gaming hardware and software, has announced that it would be dropping “all Microsoft consoles” from its online portal following recent changes to the Xbox Game Pass—the retailer is not too happy about the potential loss of revenue if gamers don’t really queue up to buy new games on day one and subsequent days after a launch.
Microsoft has made the Xbox Game Pass quite enticing for gamers with the promise of getting them access to the game on the very same day as it would be available in stores and online for download. And for a much lesser initial outlay (you just pay the monthly subscription fees), you can take the game for a spin and see if you really like it.
In the near future, the Xbox Game Pass might hurt game sales—not as many might be sold in the days after a launch, if gamers want to first try it out with the subscription they are already paying. But over time, this might actually become a habit than a one-off. The more subscribers there are for Game Pass, the more chances of conversion to a full game purchase—something that could finally make business sense to third-party publishers too.