Phil Spencer, the head of Gaming at Xbox, announced in a blog post today that the Xbox Game Pass program would be getting a significant expansion. Specifically, new releases from Microsoft Studios would be launching on the service the same day that they release at retail.
The service initially launched in 2017 with a modest list of games that has grown significantly over time. The list has since expanded to over 100 games and will continue to grow. The price, however, has remained steady at $10 a month.
The service works by allowing subscribers to download games from the Xbox Game Pass library and play them as much as they want (as long as they remain subscribed). The program WAS awesome for people looking for a collection of older games to be available to them on a whim. Today’s announcement means that fans will be able to play Xbox exclusives on the very same day that they release at retail. Sea of Thieves is the first Xbox exclusive that will be included. It will be launching at retail and on Xbox Game Pass on March 20th.
This is VERY big news. It undercuts retailers significantly by giving Xbox One owners a way to skip out on paying the high retail costs of the games in favor of a low monthly subscription. $120 a year is the equivalent of just two games and the subscription includes a lot more than that.
Microsoft is leaving money on the table here by giving their games away at a lower cost, but they aren’t doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re a business and someone in their offices is counting on them making a lot of money as a result of the program.
Xbox Live was a phenomenon last generation. It drew gamers to their platform in droves. Unfortunately, online multiplayer gaming is ubiquitous now. Players simply expect it to work. This could be the service they need to try and play catch up to the dominant PlayStation 4. We will have to see as the year continues.