Forget the Xbox: Microsoft is fully committed to its ‘Netflix for games’ subscription service

  • Games, from “Halo” to “Starfield,” were the focus of Microsoft’s huge annual Xbox briefing this year.
  • Throughout, a not-so-subtle message was repeated: Play all of these games on Xbox Game Pass.
  • Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service will include 27 of the 30 games displayed.

There was one obvious message during Microsoft’s big annual Xbox announcement on Sunday: If you don’t already have a subscription to the Netflix-like game service Xbox Game Pass, you’ll want it sooner or later.

“Halo Infinite” and “Starfield,” the company’s future blockbuster games, will also be available on Game Pass at launch. You could either spend at least $60 on each of those titles or join up for Game Pass, which starts at $10 each month.

That has become Microsoft’s main selling point for the Xbox brand, and the company reaffirmed it at a live broadcast event on Sunday afternoon. 27 of the 30 games featured are coming to Xbox Game Pass, with several of them arriving at launch.

Since the launch of Game Pass in 2017, Microsoft has been sowing the seeds for its massive success.

The program cost $10 per month and gave customers access to a curated collection of over 100 games. Furthermore, every major Xbox game published by Microsoft, from “Halo” to “Gears of War” to “Forza,” will be available as part of the library when the service launches.

Xbox Game Pass (E3 2021)
Video games like “Amongst Us” and “Hades” are amongst a wide range of third-party video games on Sport Cross. Microsoft

“That sounds a lot like Netflix,” you might be thinking, though Game Pass allows you to download or watch games.

According to Microsoft, Game Pass has grown considerably in the four years since its launch, with over 18 million subscribers across Xbox and PC. The service offers a number of major titles from third-party gaming developers in addition to its own games.

To that aim, Microsoft made two big announcements on Sunday: “Back 4 Blood” and “Stalker 2” are two of the many new third-party games coming to the service.

There was no mention of Xbox hardware or services, nor did there appear to be any planned operating system updates. The roughly 90-minute presentation was entirely dedicated to games, with the bulk of them ending with the same message: “Play it day one with Game Pass.”

That sentence sends a message in just a few words: Instead of paying $60 or more to play this game on a PlayStation or PC, you can obtain it and dozens of others for just $10 to $15 per month.

It’s a compelling argument, and one that applies to far more people than just Xbox and PlayStation owners: Xbox Game Pass is available to anybody with a PC, and Game Pass titles can be streamed to anyone with a smartphone.

“Today, there are 2 billion people on the earth who play video games. We won’t be able to sell 2 billion consoles, “Phil Spencer, the CEO of Xbox, told Insider in a June 2018 interview. “Many of them have never possessed a television, and even fewer have ever owned a computer. The phone serves as a compute device for many people on the planet. It’s all about reaching out to customers wherever they are and on whatever devices they use.”

And that’s precisely the aim of Game Pass: to expand Microsoft’s potential consumer base beyond console owners. The Xbox event on Sunday was the clearest indication yet of Microsoft’s commitment to that goal.

Here’s the link to the whole presentation:

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