When the Xbox first came out in 2002, consoles were from Japanese developers, but one of the biggest companies in America, Microsoft, wasn’t having that and decided they wanted a piece of the console pie. As a new player to the console world, Microsoft entered the game head-strong with one of the most powerful consoles on the market. Sadly, the console wasn’t able to compete against the juggernaut known as the PlayStation 2, and the company needed to rethink their strategy.
It didn’t take long for Microsoft to try again with the release of the Xbox 360, where they had a lot of wins with Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Live Arcade, and a great launch line-up; for the meantime, Microsoft was ahead of the console game, if we don’t count the Wii. However, Microsoft’s win didn’t last long as the people running the division at the time didn’t really care about the gaming side of things; from a business perspective, Xbox wasn’t making the money they wanted and this was seen as a small disruption in Microsoft’s profits.
Microsoft kept to this way of thinking for a while, and it wasn’t until late in the Xbox One’s cycle that Phil Spencer took over the Xbox division; the Xbox’s days began to look brighter.
With Phil Spencer in charge, the Xbox division righted most of their wrongs, and put gamers first with one of their best inventions since online gaming on consoles: Xbox Game Pass. The company had released Xbox Game Pass in 2017, and back then the subscription service paled in comparison to how it is perceived today.
Originally Xbox Game Pass was just a subscription service that was filled with older games; while the service was still enjoyable, especially for newer gamers to the Xbox ecosystem, it wasn’t anything to write home about; this was particularly true for the hardcore gamers who played and bought most of the games available on the service–it was abysmal at best.
It wasn’t until 2018 when Uncle Phil, as the internet knew him, announced in 2018 that all new Microsoft games would come day one to their subscription service, Xbox Game Pass; it wasn’t just Microsoft games that would come to the service day one, but even select indie games that wanted to partner up with the publisher and allow these games to have extra advertising as being day one games to the service. This didn’t mean that those games couldn’t release on another console, but it did mean they would be front and center for the Xbox. This announcement showed Microsoft was serious about their new subscription service, which at the time was still in its infancy.
Microsoft finally had a hit on their hands, but there would still be some kickbacks to the service and to the company. Customers loved the service, but there were those who were against it and believed it was bad for the gaming industry; they believed it would kill most smaller companies. Clearly it wasn’t as bad as feared, as countless developers have praised the service and subsequently had big success with it, especially the indie world.
The service created a two-fold effect, and even helped the games on the service sell on their own due to word of mouth advertising and the coverage Xbox Game Pass bought toward the games. The service didn’t just help games sell on its own console, but on competing platforms as other gamers would see the games coming for the service and want to play them, and in most cases they would have discounts on other consoles.
The question on everyone’s mind was, How can the company was make money when the subscription would sell for a minimum of $10 with a maximum of $15? The answer was that it made money the same way Netflix makes money in a sense–with subscribers; and the more subscribers the service had, the more money they got from said service, and Microsoft was making massive strides in the gaming market, securing the rights to games coming day one on the service from all over, even from massive publisher’s like Square Enix. This meant Microsoft was able to have AAA games like Outer Worlds to smaller, but well-regarded indies like Untitled Goose Game come day one to the service. With a commitment like that, there was no keeping this service or Microsoft down.
As we look toward the future for Xbox Game Pass, the future seems bright for the service. With major acquisitions in the gaming world (i.e. Bethesda) to indie success stories for games like Descenders and more, Microsoft is showing its commitment is stronger than ever. The wrongs the company had once committed are in the past, and this new commitment to the gamer has shown another side of the company. The likeliness going forward is that the Xbox Game Pass brand will get stronger and stronger and that the console it was made for will soon be just one of the multiple devices games can be played on.
As Microsoft has said countless times, the Xbox series consoles are just one part of their wider strategy for the future of Xbox Game Pass. The future for Xbox is to play how you want, when you want, on a wide variety of devices, whether that be on a PC, an Android phone, or in the future, TVs and web browsers. Because Microsoft’s vision for gaming is not simply the Xbox, but the Xbox ecosystem: Xbox Game Pass.
Whether we see Xbox Game Pass on competing consoles or not is a question for the future, but at this rate, Microsoft has solidified itself as a gaming juggernaut and that is all thanks to the brilliance of Xbox Game Pass. In the future, gaming will be cheaper than renting a movie, and we will all have Xbox Game Pass to thank for it. Whether this is for the long-term good of the gaming industry or not is uncertain; but at the moment, it is great for the gamer.
Charlie Norris is a writer for Boss Rush Network and loves indie games, Nintendo, and Xbox Game Pass. You can find him Twitter talking about all things indie and gaming in general.