Xbox chief financial officer Tim Stuart was pretty damn open about the company’s desire to make Xbox Game Pass the premiere game streaming service across all platforms, not just on Microsoft’s own console. During the 2023 Wells Fargo TMT Summit, Stuart said their main goal is to get Game Pass on “every screen that can play games.” The news was first reported by Gamespot.
“That means smart TVs, that means mobile devices, that means what we would have thought of as competitors in the past like PlayStation and Nintendo,” Stuart said. “I want to play on all the devices that I have and all the screens that I have.”
This is a “change of strategy” from before, where Xbox wanted to funnel players to Microsoft’s consoles as a value-add. But Game Pass is becoming a big part of Microsoft’s money-making plans for gaming going forward, alongside “first-party games and advertising,” according to the Xbox CFO. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has made it clear in interviews that the company believes that the way players access games is “changing rapidly.”
The statements arrived just a few weeks after Microsoft closed on the $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard. Microsoft is planning to eventually bring many of those big-name tentpole franchises like Call of Duty to Game Pass. This will take time, as Xbox head Phil Spencer has said that the company still needs to port these titles onto the game streaming service.
Most people who play games do so on mobile devices, and Game Pass is a major option for those players to get into Xbox’s now ballooned game library. Of course, one of the major roadblocks to the multi-billion dollar Activision buyout was questions over how Xbox planned to handle game streaming. Some UK and elsewhere regulators were worried Xbox would become a global monopoly thanks to these contained franchises.
Now Microsoft says it plans to try to put Game Pass everywhere, though, of course, you’ll need to pay big daddy Xbox to access Starfield or perhaps—eventually—Diablo IV through the streaming service.
The Activision deal is an “accelerant” to Xbox’s strategy: to make even oodles more money on the back of expanding access to its slate of titles and services. Meanwhile, Nintendo is not currently offering any game subscription service, and Sony’s PlayStation—in many ways—is still playing catch up. The company just recently raised PlayStation Plus prices by $20 to $40, even as it expanded access to its cloud streaming service.
Cost-wise, PlayStation Plus Premium with cloud streaming access costs $18 a month or $160 a year. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is $17 a month, but the real distinguishing feature is the availability of different games. Xbox’s service has far more recently released titles like Starfield available through the service.
Whether Nintendo or Sony would want Game Pass on their consoles is a whole other story, but Xbox’s intent is to essentially become the Netflix of game streaming services. More specifically, the company wanted to be Netflix before every other studio and network decided to create their own competing streaming service. Though Netflix had to license its content and eventually lost it, Microsoft has the benefit of being a virtual global monopoly thanks to its corporate buyouts.
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