Revolutionizing the Gaming Landscape: How Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Have Redefined the Industry’s Love for ‘We Sell Loads’ and ‘It’s a Great Tool
Xbox Game Pass has been the talk of the town for a while now. Offering subscribers an ever-growing selection of games – both standalone and trilogy – at a relatively low cost, there are millions of people around the world now playing exciting new games at a fraction of the cost they would have charged ten years ago. With new initiatives being announced all the time (Xbox Game Pass Core being the latest), it certainly seems like Microsoft is doing what it can to make the barrier to playing new titles as low as possible.
The deal for consumers is sweet, but consumers only see one side of the benefits of such a program. As highlighted in a recent Microsoft FTC court hearing, Jim Ryan at Sony claims that publishers aren’t fans, and that concerns surrounding the perceived value of big-budget titles are inside the offices of industry giants.
Was this just a statement intended to prevent a Microsoft / Activision Blizzard takeover? Or is there some truth to these fears? To find out, I traveled to Develop Brighton to talk to developers and publishers, hoping to hear first-hand from the people who see the stats and live with the realities and consequences of Game Pass.
“It’s very difficult right now because what’s happening at the same time is that these subscription services are getting bigger, and nobody has any money,” says Mike Rose, corporate director at No More Robots. “So you can try to blame[Game Pass]for that, but also all video game sales are down.”
Rose has been behind several indie game releases, and has stated that No More Heroes aims to bring all future releases to Game Pass after the massive success of Descenders on the service.
Rose continues: “There aren’t a lot of Game Pass subscribers. Most people no Use Game Pass. When we look at Descenders, which has been around on Game Pass for a long time now, it’s one of the top 20 most downloaded games on Game Pass every month – and we’re selling a lot on Xbox and PlayStation. We don’t see any drops.
However, Rose acknowledges that, as an independent publisher, his situation is very different from some of the larger publishers out there. “We put kind of low six-figures on a game. So Game Pass ends up doing pretty well for us. If you put $5,000,000 into a game, it’s even more difficult.”
So let’s expand it a bit with a developer who has published a bigger game in recent years. Enter Josh and Mike Grier, the brothers who lead the charge at Emberlab. In 2021, the studio released Kena: Bridge of Spirits to the PlayStation and Epic Game Store platforms. And for Emberlab, PlayStation Plus was a positive take on the action-adventure title.
“It was just a whole new wave of people,” Mike Greer says. “We definitely had to watch for crashes at that point, and make sure we kept doing well (laughter). But yeah, I think PlayStation Plus is just providing a new audience, and we’ve had some success there.”
His brother Josh quickly followed by explaining the power PlayStation Plus has to bring games to life after launch. “It was exciting for us. You know, the game was off for a while when (PS Plus) happened, and just to see that there are people re-energizing the crowd — getting new people to play the game as it is — that’s what’s exciting for us.”
Finally, Mike Greer concluded by focusing on a case-by-case approach. “I think[the advantage of these services]is definitely something you have to consider since Game Pass has grown so big. So, you have to look at your goals as a developer. Looking at sales is really important, of course, but also what opportunities do you have to promote the game? Game Pass and PS Plus are a great tool for that.”
Let’s take it a notch higher, to a major studio about to release their first major project. Enter Arctic 7. You may not have heard of this new outfit, but the new studio led by former EA and Sperasoft bigwigs aims to create multimedia experiences across video games, TV, and other platforms (not in a different way than Remedy). Rushing into the current market, company director John Burns provided consumer-focused opinion.
“With my background in games as a service at Jagex and other companies (…). I think what we’ve seen is more choices that you can offer players, whether it’s platforms, whether it’s different types of game genres, innovation and styles of play, with how you pay And to consume (…), it’s really cool.”
Burns continues: “Whether you look at: Well, I can go to a store and buy a physical copy (which is still the norm in some parts of the world) or guess what? I can subscribe, I can do a microtransaction. Better. We’ve seen PS Plus and Game Pass fuel growth. They fuel innovation. I think the more, the better.”
What do you think of the service? Tell us below, and while you’re at it, why not check out our articles: Exoprimal Dino Shooting feels right at home on Xbox Game Pass, but does it have staying power? , plus our top 30 Game Pass games for July 2023.
Please note: the interviews in this article have been edited for clarity and brevity.”