As the music industry, with the likes of Spotify, and the film and TV industry, with Netflix and Amazon video, can testify, streaming is a big ticket business. It couples the convenience of ease and the benefit of choice; it really was only a matter of time until video games joined in. Xbox Game Pass and Sony's alternative, Playstation Now, have been a thing for a while but Microsoft just last week have announced a big move for their service and it has retailers up in arms as it might have given a fatal blow to the second hand game sale market as well as a dint in the future of physical retail games.
For just £7.99 ($9.99) a month Xbox Game Pass allows you to play a catalogue of over a 100 games, typically these have not been new games and the service has been trailing and eclipsed by Playstation's back catalogue of 450+ games via Playstation Now. That was before Microsoft pulled their trump card. They have now announced that all new Microsoft Studio games will be coming to the platform which includes upcoming titles like Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3. That means that subscribers no longer have to go out and buy brand new games developed by Microsoft; ever. The damage this does to physical sales could be incredible, especially if there is a high adoption rate. A meaty subscription service would also kill second hand sales as consumers can now pay £7.99 a month to have access to a whole library in contrast to forking out £15.99 for just one pre-owned title. That means if no one is looking to buy pre-owned games it is going to be hell to try and unload them.
UK game stores are not happy and it's clear to see why. Both IGN and Techradar have reported that a number of retailers have refused to stock Sea of Thieves at all and a handful are even discussing boycotts of Microsoft altogether. This is concerning for a few reasons and personally I can see both sides. Why would Microsoft make it easier for people to resell titles as they do not make money, as no developer or publisher does, on pre-owned sales anyway? I am currently not a fan of digital games. There are a number of good reasons for this. I live in an area with poor internet connection. Downloading a new game can sometimes take up to 24 hours and my connection is often patchy and unreliable. Buying new games via the digital marketplace can also be very expensive, costing the same if not more than the physical counterpart.
In regards to a subscription service however, and one that will be offering not just older games, I can see the appeal. It's value for money and allows customers easy access to the latest titles. I already have subscriptions with Netflix, Funimation and Spotify so why not with Xbox? It is definitely the way media is progressing, following the example of PC which now has half a shelf in most retail spaces but dominates platforms like Steam and GOG. How will this affect Publishers and Developers though? New titles would not be being sold for £50-£60 in store and instead offered for free under the Xbox Game Pass Subscription plan. This must make a big difference to Microsoft's bottom line and what would trickle down from the top?
Xbox currently has an exclusivity problem. Sony has been on top when it comes to titles in this category for a while with Spider-Man, Kingdom Hearts 3, Death Stranding, Detroit: Become Human, God of War and Last of Us Part II, just to name a few, all coming this year! With the circulating rumour that Microsoft is looking to buy a big studio like EA, could they be setting the foundation for a monopoly where gamers will have to sign up to Game Pass to play the newest instalments of their favourite franchises?
What do you think of Xbox Game Pass and will you be signing up? What do you think of digital downloads already and are you worried about the impact on retailers? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ghoulishent.