At Gamelab 2019, multiple developers spoke about the success of Xbox Game Pass. Since the service launched just over two years ago, it has grown exponentially. Each month a huge range of titles are added from various development teams. These include major AAA publishers and smaller indie teams, with some games even launching on the service. In a panel with Gamesindustry, some of these developers spoke about how and why the subscription is fair to them and consumers.
“For me — and I might be a bit biased — but I think the way the business is with Game Pass is the first time subscription is what could be considered fair for developers”said Dino Patti, co-founder of Jumpship. Many of us look at the low-entry price point and think of the customer benefits. However, according to Patti, “Microsoft is doing it correctly, I feel, for the developers.”
Another panelist, Paradox Interactive’s Fredrik Wester, elaborated on what Microsoft is doing differently. Spotify will pay artists based on how many times a song is played. OnLive, an old games subscription service, used to pay developers based on how many hours people put into their games. Both models could be seen as unfair to some developers in the modern games industry. Many smaller scale projects would get less attention than AAA offerings, not to mention shorter games getting shafted as well. It seems that Microsoft takes a Netflix-like approach by paying developers a fixed fee.
Variety is the spice of life
This system allows for a broader reach for the service, but that’s not to say other models couldn’t work better for some games. “While the Game Pass model — to us — is still a decent model, but we think we’re not getting paid enough, because people play our games more than they play very single-player, narrative-driven games.” said Wester. This is because a team like Paradox Interactive creates sprawling strategy games with huge replayability. If you asked a developer like Playdead, creators of Limbo and Inside, they would surely have a different opinion.
What this all means for us as users of the service is simple; more games. Xbox Game Pass currently has tons of variety in styles, game-lengths and genres. It seems that the model Microsoft has adopted will allow this to grow further in the future. Titles like What Remains of Edith Finch can comfortably sit alongside open-world RPGs, birthing a varied eco-system. With so many games now launching straight onto the service, it will be interesting to see where Xbox Game Pass goes next.