How gaming subscriptions offer a new perspective on the industry

Subscription payments have permeated many industries over the past few years, and gaming is no exception. It’s easy to dismiss gaming subscriptions as a negative force, but there are a number of developers who see it as a good thing.

Xbox Game Pass
Are game subscription bundles the way to go? Photo: Microsoft

As with any disruptive force in an industry like gaming, it can take a while to win people over to a new way of doing things.

Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service has been around for two-and-a-half years now, and it’s surprised critics so far.

Has Xbox Game Pass been a success?

There are a few different ways you could measure the success of the platform. In terms of revenue, Xbox Game Pass is an increasingly important part of Microsoft’s gaming division revenue as Xbox hardware sales are falling.

But, more importantly, Xbox Game Pass appears to have been a success for gamers themselves.

In February last year, head of game planning for Xbox Game Pass, Matt Percy, told the Sydney Morning Herald that:

“players’ game time generally increases 20 per cent once they join Game Pass, and the number of different games they play goes up by 40 per cent.”

Fast forward to January 2020 and the figures continue to impress. Microsoft’s head of gaming services marketing, Ben Decker, recently told The Washington Post that the figures are now 40 percent more games and 30 percent more game genres.

Gamers are clearly getting a more varied and enjoyable gaming experience, but what about the developers?

Xbox Series X
Xbox Game Pass will likely be bigger on the Xbox Series X, which will be released in the fall. Photo: Microsoft

Good news for developers too

At first glance, you may assume that game developers are getting less revenue, as their games are now bundled with many other titles as part of the subscription.

But the reality isn’t quite as clear cut. The stats should give you a clue as to why.

The Xbox Game Pass has proven itself highly effective in getting gamers to not only play more games for longer, but also to try out new game genres.

With a subscription, gamers are much more likely to play the various niche, independent, and unusual games which they would never give a chance if they had to pay up front.

Because many of these games are bundled as part of a fixed fee, gamers don’t have to pay to give a game a go that they may end up not liking. recently published their interview with Loan Verneau, co-creative lead at Mobius Digital, the studio behind Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds is an ‘experimental’ game, which takes players on an unusual trip through a mini solar system – just the kind of game which typically finds it hard to attract players.

Outer Wilds
Game Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass can bring niche games to a wider audience. Photo: Microsoft

But Vernaeu says that the subscription model offered by platforms like Xbox Game Pass is exactly the kind of thing studios like Mobius Digital need.

Discussing Outer Wilds’ inclusion in Xbox Game Pass, Verneau said, “I think it’s brought a lot of players to the game who would not have known about it otherwise.”

For smaller game studios, this kind of exposure to a larger fan base is something which is hard to put a price on.

It’s not just small games which are covered under gaming subscription plans. Grand Theft Auto V was recently added to Game Pass on Xbox One, which will certainly be a big draw for gamers with more ‘mainstream’ taste.

Although it will probably be an unwelcome change for many at first, subscription plans clearly have a lot to offer everyone involved in the games industry.

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