This shouldn’t need to be stated, but here goes: Microsoft isn’t a charity.
Microsoft is required by law to make profits for shareholders. This idea that Xbox Game Pass is a “great deal” is naive and short sighted.
Yes, right now Xbox Game Pass IS a good deal. That’s the entire point… This is how you build an audience.
Over the past couple of years I’ve seen headlines like this:
Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Might Actually Be The Best Value In Gaming
I mean, a huge library of games available for a small monthly fee like Netflix sounds pretty good, right? What could go wrong?
This isn’t just about Microsoft or ‘Xbox Game Pass’
I’m simply referring to this service mostly because it’s currently the most popular and well known, but this article applies to all game subscription services, whether that be EA Play or Google’s Stadia Pro or any other similar service.
The end of the second-hand market
The gaming industry, as greedy as they’ve ever been aren’t happy. Despite digital products becoming more and more popular, people are still trading in their console games. Sony is releasing two versions of their console, a digital only edition and a more expensive edition with a disc drive in an effort to put the final nail in the coffin of the console pre-owned market. Microsoft is doing a similar strategy with the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
It’s quite funny because Microsoft actually tried this already with the Xbox One but then backtracked after huge backlash.
Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.
You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.
Source: Xbox Blog
They wanted so badly to eliminate the used markets for games to ensure you never truly owned the games you paid $60USD for but the timing was just too soon. It’s been 7 years since then and things have changed a lot in a short period of time and it seems many have forgotten or no longer care about game ownership (or the ownership of anything at all for that matter).
The end result is that you’ll no longer own your games. For decades you’ve had the ability to trade games with friends, sell your old games or buy games you might not have been able to afford full price second-hand.
Some people might scoff and think I’m and old fashioned boomer clinging to their NES cartridges. Some people will argue that Steam has been great for PC gamers.
I certainly won’t argue against many of the great things the digital age brings us. The ability to download a new release game at 12am on the night of release from the comfort of home is great (although I did actually enjoy many of the midnight launches I went to, including coming first place at a Halo 2 midnight launch competition). The ability to download any game in your library and not have to worry about lost and scratched discs is also nice.
But that said, good luck selling your digital copy of God of War: Ragnarok on eBay for $200… Many old classics from previous generations are now worth something to collectors, especially if included with the original boxes, etc. Some of these game are worth over $1000 and will only increase in value with time. Some of those Xbox games you had sitting on a shelf you never thought of as “collector items” will one day be worth something.
Games as a Service
Game publishers have seen the success of Software as a Service (SaaS) and they want a slice of the pie. Despite record breaking profits, thanks mostly to micro-transactions that’s not enough. They need more of your money so they can make yet another copy/paste open world game.
In order to get gamers used to the idea of Games as a Service (GaaS I guess?) they are very gently prodding us along and offering deals that are almost too good to refuse.
As an example check out this quote:
If you are stuck at home and don’t have a lot of cash, but still want to play tons of the best games, I have excellent news for you: Microsoft has once again put the best subscription in gaming on sale for just $1 (for new members or inactive accounts).Xbox Game Pass Ultimate combines Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass for Console, and Xbox Game Pass for PC into one all-encompassing service that provides access to online multiplayer and well over a hundred great games (including every Xbox first-party game, like Halo, Gears, etc.).
It normally costs $14.99 per month (and it’s worth every penny at that price) but this sale doesn’t simply reduce the price of a single month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to 1/15 of its regular price. It also converts your existing Xbox Live Gold subscription into Game Pass Ultimate, meaning that single, solitary dollar will transform however much time is left on your Xbox Live Gold subscription into Game Pass Ultimate time.
Of course, once that time is up you’ll be paying the full $15 a month or $180 a year when the service renews. Which might still sound good at first, until you realise…
Price increases are guaranteed
With the news around the gaming industry of price increases for AAA titles from $60USD to $70USD despite record breaking profits for game publishers, it’s pretty much guaranteed that these subscription fees are only going to go one way… UP.
To put this in perspective a ‘Standard’ Netflix subscription went from $7.99USD in 2010 to $12.99 in 2019. That’s close to double the cost in a decade. You can see a timeline of the prices yourself here.
Disney have all but confirmed they will rise the prices of Disney+ subscriptions in future. It’s fairly obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that game service subscriptions are only going to go up as well.
So if you think you’ll be paying just $15 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate in a few years I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Perhaps I’m getting too cynical, but how does paying for ‘premium content’ on top of your subscription sound? We have all seen what Disney has done with the new Mulan movie on Disney+. Apparently when you pay a Disney+ subscription you’re also expected to pay for new release films. I’m sure EA’s CEO frothed at the mouth at the mere thought of charging $70USD for the latest Madden on top of people paying an EA Play subscription.
If you think Disney is the only company that could get away with this kind of crap you might want to think again. This was a test and the results of this test may change subscription based services forever, and that’s certainly not hyperbole.
Adobe showed the world that people would pay a subscription for Photoshop. Disney may have just shown the world that double dipping from subscribers is perfectly acceptable. Yes, it’s true this already existed to an extent with ‘Pay Per View’ content on cable TV, but this is the first time with seen it in the new digital subscription market and surely not the last.
It certainly wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for a company to allow early access to new release titles at an extra cost. Maybe we’ll even see game subscriptions segmented into different categories like action games and sports game, much the same as cable TV had different packages you’d have to pay for to get the other channels you wanted.
Cloud Gaming is the ultimate end game for publishers
The real truth is that publishers HATE the fact that you can even install their DRM riddled games on your hardware.
What they really want is for you to pay them to play games on their hardware. This is the ultimate goal for game publishers.
Stadia and similar services already exist, but the technology isn’t quite there yet. Hopefully it’ll never be, because if/when it’s viable, they will force cloud gaming onto us whether we like it or not. They will give us some spiel about how it’s cheaper for us because we can play on any thin-client instead of spending hundreds on consoles or graphics cards. They will tell us it’s cheaper because we only have to pay a small subscription forever instead of a whole $60USD an a new release title. They’ll tell us it’s necessary to prevent cheating in online games.
The real reason is to have complete control over the games. They will be able to add and remove games at their leisure. They will be able to stamp out piracy and they’ll be able to prevent modding to ensure any enhancements to the game come from them so they can maximise DLC sales.