Did You Know Xbox Game Pass Was Originally Meant to be a Rental Service?
Per VGC, Sarah Bond spoke to GQ, where the men’s lifestyle magazine profiled the Xbox executive and the brand through its 20-year history. In the feature, we learned quite a bit about some of the decisions the executives made, decisions that eventually led to the creation of the Xbox Game Pass as we know it today.
According to Bond, the current Netflix-inspired model was the result of the way a game’s lifespan is now considered. “Something like 75 percent of a game’s revenue used to be made in the first two months of release,” says Bond. “Nowadays it’s spread over two years.”
Originally known by the codename Arches, the concept began in 2013, where it started as a rental service for video games. As time went on, and Netflix and Spotify became more popular, things were changing at Xbox.
Reaching out to publishers with the idea, Spencer and his team knew there was a big opportunity on-hand. But to get third-party publishers on board would be the biggest challenge.
“They were like, ‘no way, [Game Pass] is going to devalue games,’” Bond reflects. Xbox asked instead to experiment with their older games, where the risk was low. Engagement surpassed all estimates, so a potentially even more audacious play came to life. Xbox would release one of its own exclusive first-party games onto Game Pass, on the same day it hit shops. Sea Of Thieves was first to leap over the barricades. It was a big point of differentiation for Microsoft.”
On PlayStation and Nintendo, players would need to pay full price for their games. On Xbox, you would pay $16.99 CAD a month.
Craig Duncan, the head of Rare spoke to Spencer about the launch of Sea of Thieves on Xbox Game Pass.
“If every single person plays Sea Of Thieves on Game Pass, and we don’t sell a single copy. Are you kind of cool with that?” he asked Spencer.
“Absolutely,” Spencer told Duncan. The decision proved to be successful for Sea of Thieves with Bond saying the economics behind the platform was 100 percent successful, transforming the Xbox business model. It eventually led to a partnership with EA, offering subscribers to EA Access.
Numbers show that the 18 million subscribers spend nearly 50 percent more than non-subscribers and that the average game’s engagement has gone up more than 8 times. Three years after release, Sea Of Thieves just passed 25 million players, and the figure continues to rise.