Xbox Game Pass
|Type||Video game subscription service|
|Launch date||June 1, 2017|
Xbox Series X/S
Xbox Cloud Gaming
Xbox Game Pass is a video game subscription service from Microsoft for use with its Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One consoles, Windows 11 and Windows 10, as well as Android and iOS devices via Xbox Cloud Gaming. Xbox Game Pass grants users access to a rotating catalog of games from a range of publishers and other premium services, including Xbox Live Gold and EA Play, for a single monthly subscription price. The service was launched on June 1, 2017 while Xbox Live Gold subscribers received priority access on May 24. Subscribers of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate have access to Xbox Cloud Gaming since September 15, 2020.
On February 28, 2017, Microsoft announced the debut of Xbox Game Pass and made a limited catalog of games available to select members of its Xbox Insider community for testing and feedback. Later in the second quarter of 2017, the service was opened up to players who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold, and then to the general user population. An Xbox Live Gold subscription is not required for Xbox Game Pass, but it is required for any online multiplayer content the games in the catalog may contain.
As part of Microsoft's E3 2017 press conference, Microsoft announced that selected Xbox titles would be made available through a new backwards-compatibility feature similar to that in place for Xbox 360 titles. In a later interview, Phil Spencer stated that some of those games could make their way onto Game Pass, as well.
On January 23, 2018, Microsoft announced an expansion of Game Pass that would see first-party titles arrive on the catalog day-and-date with the retail release of the game. Sea of Thieves was the first new title to appear on Game Pass on its retail launch date, March 20, 2018. Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2 and Forza Horizon 4 would also be added upon launch, although their launch dates were not announced at the time, and future releases in existing Microsoft franchises, such as Halo and Gears of War, would also be added upon their release. Additionally, select ID@Xbox titles are also added to the service on their release dates, the first being Robocraft Infinity.
Spencer has stated that Microsoft's intent with the Xbox Game Pass is to make it available across many devices, including those of their competitors. Spencer stated "We want to bring Game Pass to any device that somebody wants to play on...Not just because it’s our business, but really because the business model allows for people to consume and find games that they wouldn’t have played in any other space." Microsoft announced in May 2019 that Xbox Game Pass would be coming for Windows 10 computers, bringing over 100 games from Microsoft's own studios as well as third-parties when it launches.
On April 18, 2019, Microsoft announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a new tier that combines both Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold into a single subscription package. It became available for testing to Xbox Insiders that same day, while general availability began on June 9, 2019. On June 9, 2019, Microsoft announced that Game Pass for PC would launch in open beta, and this would also be included in Ultimate.
While the visual branding for Xbox Game Pass had removed "Xbox" in August 2020, Microsoft stated that the service remained named "Xbox Game Pass".
xCloud was included for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers on September 15, 2020, which adds the ability for cloud gaming to select Android mobile devices, with initially over 100 games optimized for the services. Support for additional Android mobile devices are expected later. xCloud support for iOS devices via Safari and via desktop browsers on Windows and macOS computers, was added in beta form in early 2021 and fully released to all Game Pass Ultimate subscribers by June 28, 2021.
Microsoft partnered with Electronic Arts (EA) in September 2020 to bring the basic EA Play service to Xbox Game Pass subscribers on Xbox and PC, with EA Play being made available on console and xCloud to Game Pass Ultimate members on November 10, 2020 (the same day as the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S), before expanding to PC for Game Pass Ultimate and Game Pass for PC members on March 18, 2021.
Spencer said in October 2020 that their current pricing model for Game Pass at this point was considered "completely sustainable" despite concerns from some developers that they were undercharging for it, and that Microsoft had no plans to raise the price in the near future.
Microsoft stated in June 2021 that they plan to incorporate Xbox Game Pass onto a standalone device that can plug directly into televisions, as well as a app for smart TV. Additionally, Microsoft has stated that Windows 11 will include Xbox Game Pass as a built-in feature.
Xbox Game Pass is similar to Xbox One's existing EA Play video game subscription and to the PlayStation Now service offered by rival Sony. The subscription catalog contains more than 100 games at launch, with games being added to, and sometimes withdrawn from, the catalog from time to time. Xbox Game Pass allows the player to download the full game to the console; according to Head of Xbox Phil Spencer, this was done to give players "continuous, full-fidelity gameplay without having to worry about streaming, bandwidth or connectivity issues". Unlike EA Access, Xbox Game Pass offers games from a wide range of publishers, such as Bandai Namco, Capcom, WB Games, 2K Games, and first-party games from Xbox Game Studios. According to Spencer, Microsoft sees the Game Pass as more of a platform to offer games that do not fit the common mold that sell well and would be difficult to gain a publisher, and instead to allow these games to be offered in the subscription model, encouraging both developers to create new and experimental titles. The Game Pass also provides a way for players to try games they would not normally have purchased.
The catalog features select games for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One as well as select Xbox 360 and Xbox titles with which Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One are backwards-compatible. There is no limit to the number of games a player can download and install to their consoles, other than the amount of storage space available to the console. As long as a game remains in the catalog, it is available for unlimited download and play by subscribers. Players can purchase games in the catalog at a 20% discount, and any related add-on content for those games at a 10% discount. The discounted price is available only while the game is in the catalog and is only for the particular game. Games from the catalog can be played while the console is offline, but for no more than 30 days before it must reconnect to verify an active subscription.
If the game is removed from the catalog or the player ends their subscription, access is suspended until the player purchases the game or renews their subscription, but their in-game progress will be saved in the interim. If the game is an Xbox 360 title, it will be backward-compatible and must be used on Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One; it cannot be downloaded to a player's Xbox 360 console unless the player chooses to purchase it.
Spencer has stated that Microsoft has multiple ways to compensate developers for games on Game Pass and there is no one single payback approach. The payback scheme ranges from a flat rate approach as to assure exclusivity on the Microsoft platform, to completely covering the costs of development, and includes various models based on usage and monetization approaches. Paradox Interactive's Fredrik Wester stated the terms they have had followed the Netflix model where the developer or publisher was paid a lump sum by Microsoft for their game on the service for a fixed period of time based on a perceived value, rather than the per-play royalty-based approach used by services like Spotify. The upfront approach, along with the large subscriber numbers, allows developers to select ongoing directions for their games. In the case of Obsidian Entertainment, they were able to consider additional downloadable content for their game Outer Worlds as they knew millions were playing it.
In a July 2020 interview, Xbox's marketing director Aaron Greenberg said that Xbox Game Pass is not necessarily meant to be profitable for Microsoft at the current time but is designed to help draw more players to use it through word-of-mouth by offering a large set of features as a seemingly under priced value, and in the long-term become valuable. This allows them to avoid high costs of advertising the service.
While there had been rumors that Microsoft was working to bring Xbox Game Pass to other console platforms like the PlayStation or Nintendo Switch, Spencer said in an August 2021 interview that there are currently no plans for these consoles. Spencer said "We have no plans to bring [the full Xbox experience] to any other kind of closed platforms right now, mainly because those closed platforms don't want something like Game Pass" and that their focus was on making it available to open systems like personal computers and web applications.
In the Q3 2020 earnings call in April 2020, Microsoft reported that there were over 10 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers. By September 2020, it had reached 15 million subscribers, and 18 million by January 2021.
Xbox Game Pass is available in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
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