A reader considers the news that Game Pass growth is falling and suggests the subscription service isn’t working the way Microsoft hoped.
Depending on their share price on any given day, Microsoft is the richest company in the world, with totals assets of around $365 billion. So while they can easily afford to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion it’s not a drop in the ocean for them, it’s almost 20% of that amount. It’s the most expensive purchase they’ve ever made and one of the biggest in corporate history, and yet we still don’t know if it’s going to happen.
It probably will, because Microsoft are rich and rich people and entities usually get their way, but they’re obviously sweating at the moment, as they scramble to defend themselves from monopoly investigators. Having to pretend that things like Call Of Duty and cloud gaming aren’t actually a big deal after all is obviously getting them tetchy and you can see it in how increasingly irritable their public comments have been.
Microsoft is desperate to do well with games. I don’t know why really, since the goal to not let Sony take over the living room doesn’t even make sense any more, in the era of the smartphone. Their fixated on it though and yet they’ve never really been a big success. Even though the Xbox Series X/S is their most popular console since the Xbox 360 era it’s still sitting in last place this generation, just like usual.
For a while, with all their talk of having 3 billion people playing their games, it seemed like streaming was the future of their business, but regardless of what half-truths they’ve told monopoly commissions it’s clear that’s not going to be replacing consoles anytime soon.
It’s also clear the Xbox Series X/S isn’t going to be outselling the PlayStation 5 (or Nintendo Switch) anytime soon, unless Sony does something really stupid – which I wouldn’t put past them, but at this point doing anything at all would be something.
The one thing Microsoft did seem to have in their favour is Game Pass which, I think everyone can agree, is amazing value for money. It’s also not a bottomless money pit, as many imagined, as according to Microsoft it is now making a profit, even if it’s only a small one.
That’s not the only thing they revealed this week though, they also admitted that growth is slowing for Game Pass and has been for two years in a row (causing Phil Spencer to miss out on his bonus two years in a row!). That is not the sort of performance you’d expect for something that’s supposed to be amazing value and the best reason to buy an Xbox console.
You can argue that more people will join when there’s better first party games but are people really frothing at the mouth for checks notes Redfall, Starfield, and a new Fable? I mean, sure, Starfield might be good but surely it’s going to be like Netflix when a new Strangers Things – or whatever you’re into – drops. Join for a month, see everything you need to see and get out. Or just continue to take advantage of the £1 deals and all the other weirdly good deals Microsoft has.
Except they’ve already said that the price of Game Pass, and the consoles and the games, will have to increase soon anyway.
If I sound somewhat triumphant, I am… but not in a console wars way. I have all three current formats so that’s not the issue. What I’m happy about is that Game Pass is failing because it hasn’t got the only thing that matters: good games.
There are good games on there, obviously, even if some of them come and go due to the different deals, but in my opinion the reason Game Pass isn’t doing as well as Microsoft hoped is that the main draw is day one first party games and yet they haven’t really got any.
My great fear for Game Pass, and this would be the same if Sony was doing it, is that it will become too popular and it would become even more like Netflix, where the content itself matters less and less, just the fact that there’s a lot of it and it’s superficially entertaining.
I’d hate if that was the future of gaming. If it was, I don’t think I’d be interested anymore. But Game Pass proves that even amazing value is not as big a draw as quality. So maybe when they do finally have something to brag about, we’ll see Phil Spencer finally get his bonus. But I don’t think any of the upcoming games are going to make that difference (personally, I’ve always thought Bethesda very overrated).
Maybe other games, that are further out will, but I think Microsoft also realise that a real turnaround is a long way off and that’s why they’re panicking. In a way I’m glad, because if they also come to the conclusion that the only thing that matters is good games then it will all be for the best.
By reader Guts
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