Forget about the Xbox: Microsoft is all-in on its ‘Netflix for gaming’ subscription service

Starfield (Xbox/PC game)
Concept art for ‘Starfield,’ the next major game from Microsoft-owned Bethesda Game Studios. It will arrive on Game Pass at launch, Microsoft says. Microsoft/Bethesda Game Studios
  • The focus of Microsoft’s big annual Xbox briefing this year was games, from “Halo” to “Starfield.”
  • A not-so-subtle message was highlighted throughout: Play all of these games on Xbox Game Pass.
  • Of the 30 games shown, 27 will be available on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

During Microsoft’s big annual Xbox presentation on Sunday, there was one clear message: If you don’t already have a subscription to the Netflix-like game service Xbox Game Pass, you’re going to want it sooner or later.

Both of the companies upcoming marquee games, “Halo Infinite” and “Starfield,” will arrive on Game Pass at launch. You could drop at least $60 apiece on those games, or you could sign up for Game Pass starting at $10 per month.

That has become Microsoft’s key argument for the Xbox brand, and the company cemented that during the presentation streamed on Sunday afternoon. Of the 30 games shown, 27 are coming to the Xbox Game Pass service, and many will arrive at launch.

Microsoft has been planting the seeds leading to Game Pass’ wild success since it first debuted in 2017.

The service granted subscribers access to a curated library of over 100 games, and it cost just $10 per month. Moreover, every major Xbox game published by Microsoft, from “Halo” to “Gears of War” to “Forza,” would be 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 can download or stream games.

In the four years since, Game Pass has grown tremendously – it now boasts over 18 million subscribers across Xbox and PC, according to Microsoft. More than just its own games, the service offers a variety of major games from third-party game studios.

To that end, Microsoft made two major announcements on Sunday: “Back 4 Blood” and “Stalker 2” are among several upcoming third-party games that will launch on the service.

Xbox Game Pass (E3 2021)
Games like ‘Among Us’ and ‘Hades’ are among a variety of third-party games on Game Pass. Microsoft

There was no talk of Xbox hardware or services, and no mention of upcoming operating system updates. The nearly 90-minute presentation was focused solely on games, the vast majority of which were punctuated with the same message: “Play it day one with Game Pass.”

In just a few words, that phrase is sending a message: You’ll get this game and dozens of others for just $10 to $15 per month, instead of paying $60 or more to play this game on a PlayStation or PC.

It’s a good argument, and one that applies to many more millions of people than just Xbox and PlayStation owners – anyone with a PC has access to Xbox Game Pass, and anyone with a smartphone is able to stream Game Pass games.

“There are 2 billion people who play video games on the planet today. We’re not gonna sell 2 billion consoles,” Xbox leader Phil Spencer told Insider in a June 2018 interview. “Many of those people don’t own a television, many have never owned a PC. For many people on the planet, the phone is their compute device. It’s really about reaching a customer wherever they are, on the devices that they have.”

And that’s the point of Game Pass: to move beyond consoles and widen Microsoft’s potential customer base beyond just console buyers. Sunday’s Xbox presentation was the strongest demonstration yet of Microsoft’s dedication to that mission.

Check out the full presentation right here:

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