The Xbox Game Pass subscription service received a major boost Tuesday as Microsoft announced its Netflix-like gaming alternative will add Xbox One exclusive titles when they launch. This update starts this year with Sea of Thieves in March.
All Xbox One exclusive games published by Microsoft Studios will be added to the Xbox Game Pass subscription service on the same date as their global release. Sea of Thieves will be the first title to get the treatment on March 20, followed by State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3 later in 2018. The other big Xbox franchises like Halo, Gears of War, and Forza will all receive the same treatment.
The Xbox Game Pass currently costs $9.99 a month. This comes out to be $119.88 a year or the equivalent of buying two Xbox One exclusive releases a year. The subscription service becomes a real bargain when there are three or more exclusive releases per year, not to mention the over 100 other games that will be available to download.
Microsoft is currently working with retailers to add subscription cards with longer subscription periods. A six-month Xbox Game Pass will be available for $59.99 by March 20. Unfortunately, this points to there essentially being no discount for locking in on a longer subscription window.
IHS Head of Games Research Piers Harding-Rolls calls this a disruptive strategy to take on Sony and the PlayStation 4 in a note sent out following the announcements. Sony has its game streaming service, PS Now, but new games are not added until several months or more after their launch. The same goes for Electronic Arts’ EA Access service, which more closely resembles the Xbox Game Pass, as they both allow Xbox One owners to download full games.
Harding-Rolls says the new Xbox Game Pass strategy will help raise the Xbox brand image and profile in the eyes of gamers while also reaching a broader, mainstream audience. The catch is Microsoft will need to start delivering on first-party Xbox One exclusives, where it is currently being outclassed by the PlayStation 4 lineup.
Microsoft does have the money to experiment with offering Xbox One exclusives as part of Xbox Game Pass at launch. Harding-Rolls also points out the increase in revenue after a game’s launch from microtransactions and the like also makes a subscription service less of a financial risk.
It will be interesting to see if Microsoft is eventually able to work a deal with indie game developers or even third-party publishers to include their games in the Xbox Game Pass library at launch. This is yet another big shift from Microsoft that matches Xbox Head Phil Spencer’s repeatedly stated goal of making games available everywhere on any platform.