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News video games 15 November 2021, 22:25

author: Jacob Blazewicz

Behind the Scenes of Xbox Game Pass' Birth - Game Rentals and Publisher Fears

Phil Spencer and the rest of the Xbox crew revealed what the popular Xbox Game Pass subscription was originally supposed to be and mentioned concerns from publishers.

As announced, the Xbox Anniversary Celebration broadcast didn't feature the kind of announcements we're used to from typical publisher presentations. Nevertheless, the celebration of the 20th anniversary of original Xbox's debut brought with it interesting information about the brand. For example, GQ magazine's interview with Microsoft representatives revealed that Xbox Game Pass was not supposed to be a Netflix-like subscription, but a game rental.

The idea for Game Pass was born in 2013, when Microsoft started working on a project codenamed Arches. At the time, the idea was more along the lines of Gamefly - a digital game rental service running until 2018. However, the success of Netflix and Spotify encouraged the Redmond giant to test the subscription model.

The change in revenue generation from games has also done its part. In the past, as much as 75% of it came in the first two months after release. Now it takes two years.

Sarah Bond, Microsoft's VP of ecosystem development and partnerships, revealed that the company quickly encountered resistance from publishers. Publishers had seemingly legitimate concerns that adding games to this type of subscription offering would "devalue" them. Unsurprisingly, even some Microsoft employees had their doubts.

Craig Duncan, head of Rare, recalls asking Phil Spencer: "If everyone plays Sea of Thieves as part of the Xbox Game Pass and we don't sell a single copy... won't you have a problem with that?" The Xbox brand chief answered him briefly, "Absolutely not."

Sea of Thieves is significant here in that it was the first major game to debut simultaneously in stores and in subscription. Microsoft had successfully tested Game Pass with old titles before, but this new work from the famed Rare was to be the ultimate proof of concept. Today Sea of Thieves has already been checked out by 25 million players and - if official information is to be believed - sold quite well.

After that it went fast. More games from the Xbox Game Studios catalog immediately appeared in Game Pass, and the service started attracting the interest of other publishers. Electronic Arts, among others, established cooperation with Microsoft. Phil Spencer also assures that the subscription is "very, very sustainable" and "continues to grow" (via Axios).

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves

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