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Game Pass is already sustainable, says Xbox boss Phil Spencer

Without data-particulars, it’s the debate that doesn’t ever quite resolve, but Phil Spencer argues that Game Pass is sustainable “right now.”

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Without data-particulars, it’s the debate that doesn’t ever quite resolve, but Phil Spencer argues that Game Pass is sustainable “right now.”

Compared to the traditional model of triple-A releases, releasing full games on launch day for subscribers of Xbox Game Pass on both Xbox consoles and PC at no extra cost, must mean Microsoft are haemorrhaging money, surely – at least in the short term?

So argue the CEOs of publishers like Take-Two and Sony, the latter of which, outside of the PlayStation Plus collection, don’t seem to have made good on hints at a direct competitor of their own. Their PlayStation Plus service of monthly games included with access to online play (emulated in turn by Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold) has been business as normal since the end of the PS3 era.

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With 23 million Xbox game pass subscribers, if anything could be said to be working for the Xbox brand, Game Pass is it. Whilst the combined Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S unit base continues to lag behind both Nintendo and Sony, its more platform-agnostic approach to a Netflix-style subscription service has been a big success story.

So, are publishers, competitors, and journalists right to write it off as a short-term, subsidised drive for subscribers that will perforce have to become less generous in time? Game Pass’s current age and sustained releases, to me, would suggest not.

It’s not the first time he’s spoken out on the topic, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer has also stated in a retrospective with Axios that this is not the case:

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Without any data outside of raw subscriber numbers – which could well include a fair number of promotional subscriptions – it’s hard to deduce what exact definition of ‘sustainable’ the current model satisfies. Is it sustainably less profitable to release so-called ‘frontline’ games like Forza Horizon 5 and Back 4 Blood on the service on launch day? Or about the same? Outside of any sudden changes in how Game Pass operates, we may never know.

Despite its lifetime successes, Xbox Game Pass actually recently missed its target of 48 per cent growth over the year ending 30th June, hitting instead 37 percent. This comes after the previous year saw 86 per cent growth race past their targets. Whether this can be put down to the end of a pandemic boost in growth or other factors is certainly up for debate.


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