In an interview between Phil Spencer, the gaming team at Microsoft, and GQ, the head of Xbox revealed that the original idea for the Xbox Game Pass was more like a rental service.
The Game Pass originally started being worked on in 2013 and launched four years later in 2017. We now know it as a service where users pay a monthly fee and have unlimited access to all the games included in the service. But because of the success of Netflix and Spotify’s subscription models, they decided to adopt the same. Xbox saw the Netflix model as the answer to revenue issues games had been facing at the time.
“Something like 75 per cent of a game’s revenue used to be made in the first two months of release,” said Sarah Bond, head of gaming ecosystems. “Nowadays it’s spread over two years.”
Publishers believed the idea would devalue games, so Xbox started with smaller, older titles to test the waters. When Sea of Thieves launched, it did so physically, digitally, and also was the first title to be on Game Pass day one. The game proved successful, and Game Pass has continued to succeed from there.
If Xbox had decided to go with a rental service, it likely wouldn’t have proven nearly as successful. While the Xbox One was less successful than the PS4, the Xbox Series S could be something of a competitor to the PS5. The Series S has no disc drive, making Game Pass a perfect home for it. The Series S is also substantially cheaper, and with the affordability of Game Pass, they’re a match made in heaven. A rental service would make a digital-only console much less enticing, as you would only have access to a game for a limited time, and likely a similar cost to how much the Game Pass costs monthly. Xbox definitely made the right call here and is likely to see Game Pass succeed further.