As the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X prepared to duke it out in the next generation of the console wars, Microsoft has a not-so-secret weapon: Xbox Game Pass.
It’s clear that Microsoft’s gaming subscription service gamble is working. And it’s equally obvious that Game Pass is going to play an even bigger role in the Xbox Series X ecosystem.
If Microsoft did anything right this generation, it was figuring out how to run a quality gaming subscription service.
They recognize that releasing games straight onto the service is a big pull. But they also realize that adding and removing games gives gamers more opportunities to try new genres out.
And that’s the key.
A staggering 30% of Game Pass users end up playing more genres than they did before . This almost certainly translates into more sales down the line. The service is basically one massive, interactive advertising campaign.
If the Xbox Series X is going to succeed against a PS5 that has enjoyed much more gamer hype, Microsoft needs to go all-in on Game Pass.
Starting out with a bunch of games available to players at launch is a massively attractive feature for consumers. Not to mention the advertising benefits of allowing people to try out a bunch of new genres at the outset of a new console generation.
It’s no surprise that Microsoft will enter the next generation with a PR disadvantage. While the Xbox One and PS4 were incredibly similar on a technical level, Sony shipped an unfathomable 68 million more units than Xbox did.
But with a new generation comes a new start, and it’s Xbox’s chance to win back some market share with the Series X.
If they plan on doing that, then Microsoft needs to play to the Xbox brand’s strengths. Leaning heavily into Game Pass and Project xCloud is going to be their best chance to even the playing field.
Although Sony does have the PSNow subscription service , it’s nowhere near as popular as Game Pass. The company’s strategy seems to be to focus on strong first-party IPs, expanded VR support, and the PS5’s “create” features.
That’s a mistake, but it’s up to Xbox to make sure it’s a fatal one.