Last week Microsoft announced that all their future exclusives would be released as part of Xbox Game Pass’ library the same day as they are released. More than just a bold move by the company, that will allow every consumer to play their biggest franchises without the requirement of purchasing them, it represents a movement that has been long in the making when it comes to consoles. At last, the digital future has arrived.
From now on every new exclusive title released by Microsoft such as Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and the new Halo, Forza, will all be available at launch. And that aligns with Xbox’s focus on digital services like Games with Gold, EA Access and Game Pass itself.
It also works in tandem with what Phil Spencer declared on Unlocked #285, where he talked about his focus on reworking their first party slate and on the subscription service and its future, that after this announcement appears to not only receive more attention from the company, as it also shows that it is an integral part of their business strategy going forward.
That’s not to say that everybody was happy with the news, like Gameware, an Austrian retailer that won’t sell Microsoft’s products anymore, a movement that was followed by more retailers worldwide. Gamestop’s stocks also dropped right after the news came out, failing to recover. And there’s a clear reason why that happened, as it represents the inevitable undoing of physical stores, that lost the PC market, and sooner or later will see the same scenario with the console market.
Even though it’s a clear sign of things to come for the physical market, that, unfortunately, will be the most affected party by this decision, in the past few years we have seen the digital market growing aggressively whilst companies like Gamestop have seen their business losing space. But in the end, it is a consumer-friendly strategy that was bound to happen. And we can expect benefits for gamers and for Microsoft.
- The first and clearest of all is that like Netflix and Spotify, consumers will have access to more content for a low price, and now, at launch.
- If proven to attract consumers, more publishers will adhere to the service, possibly releasing exclusive titles to the service.
- Games will take less time to be released to Game Pass.
- If successful, it will force Sony and Nintendo to create similar programs.
- More consumers will feel attracted to subscribe to the service, that has received quality additions monthly, and if that keeps up, they may become regulars.
- Customer perception regarding the company will certainly be more positive, as we’ve seen in the past few years with customer-friendly strategies.
- Non-customers might feel inclined to buy an Xbox console, as you can easily assemble a library for a reasonable price.
- It clearly differentiates the company from its competitors, that through innovations (quietly coming back to the original Xbox One ideas), has created an identity that company didn’t have for years now. Of being a ground-breaking, fresh, bold division willing to take risks, looking into bringing the easiest and best experience to the Xbox consoles.
We may see some downsides, as publishers might try to force microtransactions given that they’ll lose their early windows push when the majority of sales happen. In order to attract more companies, or to appease to the physical market, the price can rise. But as we saw recently in the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, the market is not afraid to use its voice, and they will probably leave the price alone since it remains as it most appealing factor.
Whether we like it or not, the video game market is just following the example of other entertainment industries, that changed their entire behavior to adjust to a digital future. It took some time, but finally, we see the console market willing to take the first step for that to happen. A step that at first will bring some pain, but that will advance the industry as a whole.