Yesterday, Xbox announced that they would start adding any new Microsoft Studios exclusive games to their Game Pass service on the day of the game’s release.
— Xbox (@Xbox) January 23, 2018
And this got me thinking about what it could mean for the gaming business.
Cheaper Digital Prices
If you can play a brand new game for $10 per month and get more than 100 other games along with it. How many people would still be willing to pay the full price for a game? With triple A ones usually going for around $70 these days …
Which incentive would there need to be for people to still want to buy the game? Something can be said for owning a physical copy (can be resold, loaned to a friend, no issues if the service is down) but what about people buying a digital copy? When would they prefer this over playing the game through Game Pass?
- When they want to “Own” the game?
- When it’s rotated out? (Games eventually leave the Game Pass service when others enter)
- If DLC is only available when you own the game?
I think it will mostly boggle down to the price. If the deal is good enough, a lot of people won’t be able to resist picking it up. Games present in the Game Pass even receive a discount right before rotating out, so that will probably be the new point in time where the sales are made.
Positive Effect on Indie Games
Some indie games fear that they will not make enough money selling their first game so they can strike a contract with Microsoft to release their game as a Games With Gold or a Game Pass title. They know upfront how much they will earn and can guarantee that their expenses and personal investments are covered + their game is played by a big enough install base.
This is especially important for multiplayer games whose success relies entirely on having enough people playing the game on release day. This is probably a big part of why Rocket League became such a hit and other games will want to follow in those footsteps. A Belgian developer I got to know last year finds himself in exactly this position: he’s launching his game “Hoverloop” soon on Steam’s Early Access and he wants to guarantee that enough players will be present in the online Multiplayer lobbies. Launching as a GWG or Game Pass game would be perfect to reach enough potential players.
Effect on Release Model
A service like Game Pass relies a lot on having regular new content available or people will end their subscription. To have a decent flow of new games each month, I could see the way some games are distributed to change entirely. A perfect solution for this problem would be to release games in an episodic model, just like how TellTale Games releases their games as episodes over several months.
It’s basically one game split into multiple parts, but it offers multiple advantages:
- The Game Pass would have multiple new entries instead of just one, so people have something to look forward to
- The developers have more time to work on the next episodes
- The developers can gather feedback from the players to improve the next episodes
I think other companies also started to realise this as we’ve seen this kind of release model in fighting games like Killer Instinct and even big RPGs like the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake are opting for this route. Thinking further on this, games that have DLC episodes like Final Fantasy XV could easily use the same approach and get added as new entries to the Game Pass (though you’d need to keep the base game in rotation as well)
Effect on Betas/Early Access
Similarly to how new Microsoft Studios games will be added to Game Pass on release, we’ve already seen EA bringing their games to EA Access earlier than the actual release date. A good example would be how Mass Effect Andromeda was accessible first to people who were subscribed to their service.
I could also see games with a long open Alpha or Beta Test phase limit themselves only to people subscribed to Game Pass at some point. It’s a more effective way to guarantee that people will try out your game rather than randomly handing out keys for a beta test.
Most of these thoughts are pure speculation on my end but I could see some of these becoming true in the coming months or years.
What do you think? Let us known on Twitter or in the comments!