Microsoft Expands Gaming Empire, Bringing Xbox Game Pass to PC Players
During Microsoft’s last conference call, CEO Satya Nadella dropped a casual remark that the company will soon expand its Xbox Game Pass service to the PC. In his comments on Microsoft’s overall gaming strategy, Nadella said:
[T]he thing that I’ll say is most critical when you think about gaming is having a platform where the gamers are already there. That means you need to have a platform that has a community around it and monetize as well… Xbox has the key gaming community and the monetization capabilities. Whether it’s first-party games or third-party games, we are best-in-class in that monetization and that’s what’s reflected in the results… Obviously, bringing Game Pass to even the PC is going to be a big element of that. And then streaming is just a natural sequence of it.
Xbox Game Pass is a $ 10-per-month subscription service that allows you to stream a library of 100 games to your Xbox (and at some point in the future, your PC), for $ 10 per month. Microsoft has previously announced that it would feature all first-party studio titles as part of Game Pass and that it would do so when they launched, not months or years after debut. After years of moving away from developing its own first-party content for Xbox, Microsoft is back in the game (pun intended) again, having acquired Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Undead Labs, and Compulsion Games just this year. Ninja Theory developed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Playground Games is behind the Forza series, and Compulsion Game’s major release is We Happy Few.
A full list of games available on Xbox Game Pass can be found here, but a quick check reveals some strong options. All three BioShock titles, Bayonetta, DMC 4, Doom 2016, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 3 & Fallout 4, Forza Horizon 4, six Gears of War titles, a number of Halo games, Metro Last Light Redux, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sea of Thieves, two Shantae games, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and Xcom: Enemy Within are a handful of the titles available on the service. Obviously, your tastes and opinion will vary, but there’s no arguing that Microsoft has a very solid lineup of games. $ 10 per month with Day 1 access to launch titles could make the Xbox Game Pass a huge success.
Over at Geek.com, Jordan Minor asks if Microsoft’s move to put Game Pass on the PC could threaten the Xbox’s console business. In my own opinion as a longtime PC gamer, no, probably not. This is not to say there’s no overlap between the communities — plenty of gamers have both consoles and PC titles, and a household could easily contain a mixture of players and platforms. But this move is directly in line with what Nadella has made his core concerns — game streaming, cloud platforms, and an increased overlap between Xbox and PC gaming that allows gamers in one ecosystem to access products in the other.
If Microsoft wants to make a renewed first-party push, this kind of move makes perfect sense. Opening Xbox One exclusive games and a curated game experience to PC players expands the potential audience for Microsoft’s game content without asking anyone to commit to buying an entire console just for the experience. It could even open the doors to cross-platform appeal with PS4/PS5 owners who also have PCs, but want to experience Halo or one of the other Xbox first-party titles.
The biggest question in all this is whether or not PC gamers are willing to trust Microsoft when it comes to delivering solid game experiences. While the Game Pass service would presumably be tied to the Xbox app instead of the Windows Store, issues with the latter have undoubtedly informed how PC gamers think of Microsoft and gaming in general — and the Windows Store has been, generally speaking, a terrible way to acquire games. There have been infinite download bugs, poor performance, hopelessly buggy performance, and, in one memorable case, buying the Windows Store version of the game locked you to different multiplayer servers than Steam gamers. Fixing PC gamer perceptions could take a while. But extending the Xbox Game Pass to PC players should be a good upside, particularly for gamers with laptops who want to be able to play on the go without buying a heavy desktop replacement gaming system.
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