It seems like only yesterday when Blockbuster was the central hub for a family movie night in, or where you'd rush to the gaming isle to rent one of the four GTA: Vice City copies left. Over a decade later, the classic movie rental service is nothing more than a mere day dream as we scroll though the infinite amount of film and tv shows in streaming services like Netflix's library.
Thanks to the Internet, physical discs are becoming more and more irrelevant while subscription based services continue to reign supreme. As the market continues to dominate most entertainment industries, video game companies are now setting their eyes on digital subscription services, and Game Pass may be it's Christopher Columbus.
Game Pass is an Xbox exclusive service, and like Netflix, it offers up unlimited access to over one hundred Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles for one low monthly price of $10. It is one of the best values gaming has to offer, and, unlike PlayStation Now, it isn't a cloud service so you don't have to rely on your own broadband speeds to play. However, you will need an internet connection to download the game.
In March, Microsoft heavily promoted Game Pass service for the first time by putting a brand new exclusive release as part of its line-up, Sea of Thieves. The game was met with shaky reviews, but still turned out to be a huge hit for Game Pass. The title brought in 1.7 million active players on Xbox One during it first month of launch, according to market research group SuperData. However, “more than half” of those users got the game through the free trial of Game Pass.
On May 22, Xbox launched it's second major AAA title on the service, State of Decay 2, and like SOT, it's launch was just as impressive. Aaron Greenberg, General Manager of Xbox Games Marketing states, "Since Early Access for the Ultimate Edition on May 18 and the global release of the Standard Edition on May 22, we have had over a million survivors across the globe playing and creating their own zombie survival story." Game Pass is certain to have a three peat once the highly anticipated exclusive Crackdown 3 releases later this year.
The success of both title launches proves that consumers don't mind paying a flat monthly fee instead of buying content a la carte. It genuinely feels like the first time a viable alternative has been proposed to coughing up $60 per video game. If $10 is still too questionable, you can also try the service for free if you haven't yet taken advantage of the free trial offer.
It’s been one year since they launched Xbox Game Pass, and its goal to provide the freedom to explore and play more great games is changing gaming habits in incredibly positive ways. Its enticing additive means to drive discovery and engagement of games. Hopefully it’s a system that can become more widely adopted in the future by other console makers and publishers, and push the gaming industry entirely into a new chapter of how to play.
To dive deeper into Game Pass, we've sat down with Parimal Deshpande, Director of Marketing, Xbox Game Pass to discuss the overall goal of the service, how it will effect the market, and the life cycle of games.
Why is now the perfect moment for the gaming industry to finally get a subscription service?
We took our time to get it right and what that meant was, we understand what potential future members or fans of Game Pass would want in something like Game Pass. What we discovered was, there's several dimensions to that one.
One is a great selection of games, that's most important. The second dimension is different genres. It increases the appeal a lot more because people come in thinking they want to play one or two or three games and then they stick around as they discover more games. The element of discovery and exploration is very important, so that means more genres.
The third dimension was, again, making sure that the price is right. It's a great deal, ultimately, and that's important. The fourth dimension, which is in some ways, a hidden dimension, is the expedient of content. It's one thing to say great content, but once you start playing, you want a good experience. That is, you want to simply have full fidelity. If you pull it all together, a combination of great games, quality of games, the quantity of games, we wanted to make sure that we had that magic number to win. It's what our fans told us.
We wanted to launch a great product, which we believe is a new product and now's the time that we all, and all of those things, came together.
How do you think Game Pass will effect the physical disc market and gaming stores like GameStop?
That's a really good question. The actual answer is that it doesn't. It's actually very additive and instrumental to the market and here's why. Look at it from the customer or gamer perspective. What gamers want is two things. One is great games to play. I want choice. I want to be able to play games whenever I want. I also want value. What we've done as Game Pass is we have not taken away anything. So gamers who want to buy or pre-order the ultimate edition for the game, nothing gets taken away.
How do you think Game Pass will affect the cost of video games to be made? With the $10 subscription instead of paying sixty bucks.
People still have the option to buy the game at its full price, whether its $60 or whatever it is. Then, what Game Pass does, is it actually, in addition to Day One sales or the full price sales, it gets more people to play the game. Take Sea of Thieves, which is a brand new game from Microsoft Studios, into Game Pass. What we've seen was the opposite. Without sharing numbers, as those are confidential, we have 2 million people playing the game before it hits shelves. Which, obviously, is a combination of both people buying the game and also people playing through Game Pass.
Like 'Sea of Thieves,' can we expect all Xbox exclusives to be launched or co-launched with Game Pass?
That is absolutely the intention. In fact, the intention we have, we have already released Sea of Thieves into Game Pass and the same will happen for future releases, such as State of Decay 2. We've also said that any future, unannounced titles, whether it's Forza or Gears of War will go into Game Pass too. We have no dates right now. Specifically, that's the intention, but you can never really tell just because we don't know what unforeseen circumstances there might be. Our goal is to put in as many as we can.
How many games are you looking to have on the service by end of 2018?
What we know from our fans is the magic number is at least 100 at any given time. That's number one. Number two is, we add a set of games every month so there's always something new to play for people who are on the service.
We look at the 100+ games, we look at client feedback, we keep adding stuff and then we make sure that at any given time in the future, it could be the end of the year or even after that, we keep adding stuff. We don't need to think in terms of what are the numbers we want to hit. We base it on whatever fan feedback we have on games, then we can decide to keep the catalog fresh. Its less about what the upper cap is and more about making sure that at any given time, we are true to what our fans have said; 100+ games, new games every month to play across genres.
How do you determine the life cycle for the games? How do you know which ones to drop out of the catalog and which ones to keep?
That's a favorite question of mine. Its both an art and a science. The science part is when we know something that a customer said, we know what they're playing, we know how much and which titles are favorites right now or at any given time. The art part is the high level of what genres are popular, and what is trending well. Ultimately, become the exercise of matching for what we can get from publishers, making sure the publishers are actually happy with that too. We want all the parts to win. With fan feedback, we decide what we want to renew for long term, or maybe, we change them and rotate some titles out. That's the art of it.
That being said, one thing we do want to make sure we do as a matter of principle, is that we never want to blindside our customers. If a title is rotating out, we want to give them enough notice, which we do, 'Hey this game is leaving Game Pass' and with that reminder we also say, 'Don't forget that if you love this game and you want to buy it, here's a discount for you, take advantage of this exclusive discount right now.' If they choose to buy that or play it in the future, all the progress remains in the game. We want to make sure that there is continuous experience for the gamer.
Do you think Game Pass and subscription-based services will be the norm in the future for video games like it is in music and TV/film?
There is certainly a choice, and it's a great choice. Think about it from a consumer perspective, nobody wants their choice to be taken away. So, we want to have something that is a different experience in games and you can continue buying your games as you did both physical and retail stores, or you can experience it in Game Pass or you can do Game Pass and then buy it.
I don't think the future is just one, it's the combination, it's the choice. The future I would say is gamers having lots of games to pick. That is the future. That's what we look forward.
What is the ultimate goal for Game Pass?
That's a really good question. There's two elements here for how we see Game Pass and ultimate success. Ultimate success would be, one, to have the ultimate choice and value in gaming. We really, really feel good about that right now. The ability to provide gamers with 100+ games, across genres, for a great price, it's really a great value in gaming right now.
The second one is the ultimate freedom to play and what that means is how people see it. It changes how they approach gaming. It changes that because now there is no desire to try different games. It would encourage them to try games that they otherwise would not have tried and that's what we feel really good about. That will be the goal: can Game Pass go beyond the ultimate value of gaming and actually provide the ultimate freedom to play where gamers discover, explore, and play a lot of different types of games that they otherwise would not have. Getting as many gamers as possible around the world to experience the magic of Game Pass, that's what we want in the end.
To join and learn more about Game Pass and its expanding library of new and old games head to their site here.
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