Before the likes of Netflix and Spotify successfully adopted a model of streaming media content to users via a subscription-based service, Xbox Game Pass was set to begin life as a video game rental platform.
Speaking to British GQ, Microsoft’s head of gaming ecosystems Sarah Bond explained that Xbox Game Pass may have originally looked rather different. The studio’s decision to launch as a streaming-based subscription service came in part due to the successes seen by other companies using the model – turning a rental service codenamed Arches into the game subscription service we know as Game Pass.
It also helped the company to build into another phenomenon in the industry – the longer duration over which games were generating revenue. “Something like 75 percent of a game’s revenue used to be made in the first two months of release,” explains Bond. “Nowadays it’s spread over two years.” Game Pass allows the company to offer the games themselves at an attractive price point for players, while expansions or other post-launch transactions remain valuable.
Bond went on to reveal that the idea of a video game subscription service was initially met with strong resistance from publishers, who believed that Game Pass would devalue games. When Xbox initially launched Game Pass in June 2017, it launched with a number of low-risk older games that publishers had granted the studio access to in order to test how profitable the service would actually be.
As per GQ, Xbox found that engagement from players surpassed all its estimates – a factor that eventually led to the company releasing an Xbox Studios project, Sea of Thieves, onto the platform at the same time as it launched to wider retailers, seeing continued success up to now, and encouraging it to release all new first-party games into the service, as well as attracting publisher support.
Earlier this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed that Game Pass had amassed over 18 million subscribers. Subsequent reports from Microsoft have suggested that growth has slowed down across 2021, however, the company will likely be hoping that a strong November lineup for Game Pass including the likes of Forza Horizon 5, It Takes Two, and GTA San Andreas, will help to remedy the situation.
Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.