- Starting in the summer of 2017, Microsoft made a major bet on a new style of game service: For $US10 a month, Xbox Game Pass provides access to a library of over 100 games.
- The library includes every game that Microsoft publishes, major third-party games like “NBA 2K20” and “Red Dead Redemption 2,” and a variety of high-profile independent games.
- The service has been a major hit with critics and consumers and is regularly heralded as the best deal in gaming.
- This week, for the first time ever, Microsoft revealed that the service has over 10 million paying subscribers in 41 countries around the world.
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In the summer of 2017, Microsoft made an ambitious bet on a new Xbox service: Game Pass.
The service offered a curated library of over 100 games, and it cost just $US10 per month. Moreover, every major Xbox game published by Microsoft, from “Halo” to “Gears of War” to “Forza Motorsport,” was published to the service at launch as part of the library.
If you’re thinking, “That sounds sort of like Netflix,” you’d be right, although with Game Pass you download titles instead of streaming them.
In the years since, Xbox Game Pass has become one of the best deals in gaming – a coup from Microsoft’s Xbox division in a console cycle dominated by Sony’s PlayStation 4.
And on Wednesday, for the first time ever, Microsoft revealed just how successful Xbox Game Pass has been: The service now has over 10 million subscribers spread across 41 countries around the world.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said as much during a quarterly earnings call on Wednesday evening.
Microsoft’s Xbox division saw growth across the board in the last quarter, with nearly 90 million monthly active users on Xbox Live – the online service for Xbox consoles.
“Gaming right now, globally, is having a moment,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said in an interview with Business Insider last week. “Gaming is a social and community connection for many people, and as physical distancing is requiring shelter in place, is requiring that people are physically apart, the social connections and community connections that the games industry brings to people is just expanded.”
The gaming industry in general has seen huge gains while millions of people shelter in place indoors and increasingly turn to gaming to occupy their time.
In March 2020, the game industry had its biggest March in over 10 years; sales of game consoles, games, accessories, and game cards topped $US1.6 billion, according to The NPD Group’s monthly report.
It’s a rare example of an industry that’s seen a major upswing in revenue during the pandemic – a bittersweet victory for game companies, which have also implemented work-from-home policies and are facing the same struggles as everybody else.
“We track what we call ‘new to Xbox customers,’ – new to gaming customers – people that we’re seeing for the first time,” Spencer said. “And we’re seeing a big flood of new people come in to gaming.”
At the same time, the video game industry is made up of thousands of people who are all experiencing the same global crisis as the rest of us. “We’ve talked [internally at Microsoft] about this,” said Spencer. “It’s about ‘How do you feel that gaming is doing well at a time where the world is hurting?’ You wouldn’t wish this is the way we get here.”
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