Xbox Game Pass is among Microsoft's new Xbox One features that aim to revolutionize social aspects of gaming. Along with changes to Xbox Live and Beam support, the company wants to bring gamers together. In an interview with The Guardian, Xbox chief Phil Spencer has discussed how Xbox Game Pass can become a Netflix-like service for gamers.
Game Pass was announced in February as a subscription-based service. It gives gamers unlimited access to over 100 games for $9.99 per month.
The titles include Xbox One games and those available from Xbox 360 Backward Compatibility. One of the most interesting aspects of Game Pass is it offers “continuous full-fidelity gameplay”. This essentially means gamers can play without having to worry about stream strength or quality. Sony's PlayStation Now cannot offer this.
An important feature of Xbox Game Pass is it allows subscribers to download full games onto the Xbox One. It will also be rolled out for Project Scorpio when the console arrives later in the year. Spencer believes the service can become a game changer in the same way Netflix revolutionized television.
Games as a service are increasing in popularity, even to the detriment of traditional story-driven titles. Episodic games are changing the way people play games, and are even drawing in non-gamers. It is arguably the biggest potential shake up to the casual gaming dynamic since the Wii opened gaming to the family.
“The audience for those big story-driven games… I won't say it isn't as large, but they're not as consistent,” said Spencer. “You'll have things like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn that'll come out, and they'll do really well, but they don't have the same impact that they used to have, because the big service-based games are capturing such a large amount of the audience”.
Building on Potential
The executive believes the video game industry must adapt to this potential. Spencer says gaming subscription services can give gamers access to story-driven games and give developers more freedom.
“I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes.”
“The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it's because of the business model,” added Spencer. “I hope as an industry we can think about the same. Subscription services might spur new story-based games coming to market because there's a new business model to help support their monetisation.”
Naturally, Spencer thinks Xbox Game Pass is a platform that can deliver the model he talks about. While the service is not set up in that way, it is clear Microsoft has long-term plans to monetize gaming more and stimulating developers to potentially create exclusively for a subscription service.