Microsoft launched Xbox Game Pass in 2017, seeking to become the long-fabled “Netflix for games.” The company has never talked about subscriber counts, until now. In its most recent investor call, Microsoft revealed Xbox Game Pass has seen strong growth in the past year and now has a whopping 10 million subscribers. Netflix has somewhere north of 160 million customers, but you gotta start somewhere. No doubt some of this growth is thanks to the pandemic, but Microsoft hopes people will stick around even after they can go outside.
As the name implies, Xbox Game Pass started on the Xbox One console, but it expanded to PC last year. Both versions of the service have a $10 monthly subscription tier that gives you access to more than 100 games and some exclusive discounts. There’s also a $15 plan that has both PC and Xbox support, along with Xbox Live Gold — that alone is $10 per month. Unlike game streaming services, Game Pass simply gives subscribers the option to download and play any game included in the catalog.
The service has managed to grow even though it doesn’t always get the newest games. Titles from Microsoft Game Studio launch on day one, but many developers keep their latest titles off Game Pass. Some of the top titles on Game Pass are GTA V, Minecraft, and Doom (2016). The selection is decidedly better on the Xbox, though. None of those games are included for PC gamers. The top PC games include Gears 5, Alien: Isolation, and TABS.
Microsoft says Game Pass subscribers are much more into their games, though. They play twice as much as non-subscribers, and multiplayer engagement has increased 130 percent. Despite its relatively short run, Game Pass now has more subscribers than services like EA Access, PlayStation Now, and GeForce Now. EA and Sony claim 5 million subscribers, but Nvidia is at barely 1 million for a service it has been developing for more than six years.
Microsoft has the advantage of pushing Game Pass via the Xbox and Windows, and it doesn’t rely on streaming technology like GeForce Now. Microsoft does plan on moving into streaming soon, though. It’s already conducting a test of its xCloud game streaming technology, which will eventually become part of Game Pass. The company hasn’t talked about what such a combination service would cost, though. xCloud could also expand Microsoft gaming to smartphones. There’s already an Android client, but Microsoft is working through various roadblocks with Apple’s restrictive App Store policies.
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