Microsoft is giving us the best deal for the next generation but it’s not what people want–for now

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ActuallyDeevees

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Edited By ActuallyDeevees

Microsoft held its eagerly anticipated Xbox Games Showcase just a couple of days ago and people had been touting it as their most important presentation to date. The next generation of consoles is looming just beyond the horizon with both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 slated for a holiday 2020 launch yet we don’t even have a price point for either system. Both Sony and Microsoft have been staying relatively hush-hush in regards to specific details consumers should know by now, like an exact release date and price tag. What we do know, however, are the games coming to each console. Sony presented its lineup of upcoming games and wowed people with some truly incredible looking titles like Horizon Forbidden West and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Part that showed us the next generation of video games is coming this year. With Sony’s bevy of games inciting the same feeling of seeing the initial demo of Watch_Dogs, people had their eyes on Microsoft to do the same with their Series X which we know is composed of more powerful hardware. Well, they held a presentation, showed a lot of interesting games, and left the masses completely unenthused.

It looks...fine.
It looks...fine.

They kickstarted the event by giving the people what they wanted–the first glimpse of Halo Infinite gameplay. Master Chief crashlands onto an eponymous Halo and steps out into lush greenery reminiscent of the very first Halo and it looks…good. Gunplay looks punchier than ever and the added gadgets to Master Chief’s arsenal–the pocket-sized holo-shield and grappling hook–seem like welcome additions to Halo’s already fun and frantic gameplay. Graphically, though, it didn’t inspire awe like the supposed ‘world’s most powerful console’ should. Regardless, the game looked good if not a little underwhelming and the same could be said with most of the showcase. All titles they showed–Everwild, The Medium, Obsidian’s Elder Scrolls-competitor in Avowed–all seemed like promising games. But none instilled the excitement that comes from seeing games that feel like next-generation titles. Spectacular visuals and unprecedented ways a game could be played were all but absent from Microsoft’s integral presentation. The most exciting tidbit came not from the games themselves but the company’s long-standing subscription service.

Xbox Game Pass is the most budget-friendy (and legal) way to play games right now. The catalog is impressive as it stands with more than a hundred games that range from most if not all of Microsoft’s first-party releases, big triple-AAA blockbusters like Red Dead Redemption, to even recent indies like the grotesque Carrion. The deal is arguable one of the most impressive subscriptions in entertainment with a relatively low price of 15 USD/month to play both on your PC and Xbox. It’s even cheaper if you just want one or the other with console Game Pass at 10 USD/month and PC Game Pass for 5 USD/month. If that can’t seduce you, the first month for all versions of Game Pass go for 1 USD and every title announced at the Xbox Games Showcase will be available day one on Game Pass. That is absurd.

A few of the most popular titles in Game Pass.
A few of the most popular titles in Game Pass.

With 2K revealing that the next-generation versions of their NBA 2K titles would be priced at 70 USD, it seems as though we’re approaching a point where games are, once again, becoming even more expensive. A price hike in games hasn’t happened ever since the days of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 where the universal standard was set at 60 USD from the former 50 USD of the previous generation. While this may seem like a dreary thought a for a typical consumer’s wallet, the fact of the matter is that most full-priced games are already laden with microtransactions and the average person probably pays more than 60 USD on a big-budget, triple-AAA video game. On top of that, games are continuing to grow in size, spectacle, ambition, and development costs. This is a constant growth, as with most industries in the tech field, and yet games have remained at their 60 USD price tag at the potential cost of the well-being of the developers themselves.

Yet, here we are, with Microsoft giving its players their whole slew of first-party titles, and then some, at a market-friendly price and doing so in a way that doesn’t undercut game developers as well. It’s a win-win situation for players and game-makers alike; games are going to find themselves in the hands of more fans at a relatively cheap price. Game Pass is an appealing pathway for companies to take that’s only bound to improve once the Series X launches. But the elation for Microsoft box is mostly tepid at best because, and even I’m guilty of this, the pragmatic approach of the Game Pass is enticing to my wallet but not the part of my brain that seeks pleasure from unrealistic E3 demos. The next-generation signifies new horizons for what video games are capable of from a technical perspective. Sony presented this with their lineup of first-party games and even if most of them aren’t arriving soon, they give us prospective games that define the beginning of a new generation. So far, Microsoft hasn’t done the same.

As much as I think Halo Infinite looks like it’ll be a fantastic game, the Series X won’t have the shiniest or most attractive games at launch. It won’t have that one game you’ll show of to others to justify buying a $500 box. It won’t. But in the long-term, a couple of years down the road, when we’re in thick of the ninth generation of game consoles, the Series X might be the console to choose–at least for the casual customer. Microsoft has admitted that Game Pass isn’t turning a huge profit but as the catalog grows in terms of both quality and quantity after the launch of the Series X, the everyday consumer may opt for Microsoft’s “tower of power”. Most hardcore fanatics would most likely have gotten their console of choice by then and what’s left are the customers looking to play the most games they can with the least amount of money. The Series X is not the console for early adopters nor is it for the most dedicated fan of games who own a capable gaming PC. it’s the console for the silent majority, for the casual fan looking to play games that won’t cost them a month’s worth of groceries.

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The_Nubster

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#1  Edited By The_Nubster

"If people feel like you're over-delivering on value, they want to not only continue to use your service, but they want to tell their friends about it. The most powerful marketing is word-of-mouth marketing. We can't create as many advertisements, as many assets as we want, but if both of you go tell one of your closest friends, 'You have to get Game Pass' that's way more effective than any marketing I can do. For us, we just want to keep adding more and more value, so you feel really good about that, and you feel like you want to go tell your friends about it. And ultimately, we think long-term that's the right thing for the business and will have long-term benefits for us, but in the short-term, Xbox Game Pass is not a big profit play, but we think long-term it works out good for everybody."

In Microsoft's most recent earnings call, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said that Xbox Game Pass is currently seeing "record subscriber growth across both, console and PC". Xbox Game Pass now has over 10 million subscribers — which is around ten times as many subscribers as PS Now, Sony's equivalent service.

The rest of the article is important.

Also, they don't care if you buy a $whatever Series X. They do not care. Their play is in customer base and loyalty and subscriptions like Netflix. They're building out their brand instead of doubling down on a single source of revenue. Framing this coming generation as a box-vs-box battle is completely missing the point.

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ActuallyDeevees

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@the_nubster: I agree that Microsoft doesn't *really* care where you get Game Pass but they still want to increase their install base. Not everyone has a capable PC so they still have to sway people that even getting any model of Xbox is worth their money.

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Hayt

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#4  Edited By Hayt

I've never been a huge fan of the 'instead of paying 60 bucks once off pay 15 bucks forever' but the thing that struck me most when I was on the trial was how quickly stuff disappeared off the service. Maybe someone who has been with it long term can fill me in but it really did seem like stuff was fleeting. I recognise Microsoft doesn't need or even want me, the guy that wants to be able to return to anything at any time, but it seems like Game Pass is especially ephemeral.

Edit: PC Game Pass if that makes any difference

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Justin258

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I have a Game Pass subscription. I use it to demo games that I might want to play all the way through.

But I don't really like the future of subscription models, really. I want to own the things I pay for, and that concept has slipped so far away from people over the past decade. Like, imagine if someone walked into your house and told you that you couldn't watch all of the Disney blu-rays you had purchased over the past few years because now the only legal way to watch them is on Disney's proprietary format. With subscription services, they can do that. Frankly, they could probably figure out a way to do that with Steam and digital purchases as well, but at least there's some level of protection there.

Setting that bit aside, I saw bits and pieces of Sony's press conference and, aside from Ratchet and Clank, it was a bunch of "meh". Horizon is a "pretty good Ubisoft game" so I'm not really all that interested and... what else did they show? I keep forgetting. I haven't been floored by a game's technical prowess for a very long time now - like, I think seeing Call of Duty 2 on a 360 was the last time I thought "holy shit! This is impossibly amazing and a I must have it now!" I mean, I appreciate a clear image with a lot of detail, but that's never really gotten me pumped for anything. I was flabbergasted at all the talk about Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313 until I figured out that people are just talking about how pretty they looked back in the day.

You know what excites me? Interesting video games, and Microsoft's conference had stuff in it that I want to play. Halo looks like the FPS series that I know and love and have been playing off and on for nearly a decade and a half now, so yeah, I'm really excited for that. We've never had a proper competitor to Skyrim and some solid first person dungeon crawling with a triple A budget sounds right up my alley, so Avowed is something I'm going to be looking forward to for years, and I'm pretty interested in seeing what Obsidian does with the survival genre with Grounded. We're getting more Outer Worlds, more Forza Motorsport, a new Fable, and I'm pretty curious to know what The Medium is. That's the most I've been excited coming out of an E3-ish press conference in a long time. It feels, to me, like Microsoft isn't making a bunch of dry, bland open worlds or simple, slow, "cinematic" action games.

It doesn't hurt that all of this stuff is supposed to be released on PC day-and-date with the console stuff, so I don't even have to worry about the Xbox Series X being some ridiculously expensive machine. I can just play this stuff on my platform of choice. With Sony's stuff, I'm limited to their console, at their framerates, and their resolutions, and that isn't appealing.

Goddamn, this attitude is completely different from how I felt seven years ago, when Microsoft was releasing what barely passed as a mid-range gaming PC with something resembling always-online DRM and very little in the way of what looked like meaty exclusives.

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The_Nubster

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like, I think seeing Call of Duty 2 on a 360 was the last time I thought "holy shit! This is impossibly amazing and a I must have it now!"

I have a very distinct memory of playing Call of Duty 2 all the way through in one weekend. We had just gotten a 360, and my dad had bought a brand-new plasma TV and was out of town for the weekend. I would later learn that the price of the TV was astronomical for the time and put a real strain on our family's finances, but god damn did those helmets look good as I shot them off.

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ToughShed

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You must have a time machine to the future where both consoles have launched. neat.

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ToughShed

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#8  Edited By ToughShed
@hayt said:

I've never been a huge fan of the 'instead of paying 60 bucks once off pay 15 bucks forever' but the thing that struck me most when I was on the trial was how quickly stuff disappeared off the service. Maybe someone who has been with it long term can fill me in but it really did seem like stuff was fleeting. I recognise Microsoft doesn't need or even want me, the guy that wants to be able to return to anything at any time, but it seems like Game Pass is especially ephemeral.

Edit: PC Game Pass if that makes any difference

that was not my experience ever with the service. stuff is on there a while. some things come off but they give you tons of heads up also.

It may be too quick for a given person I guess but "fleeting" is way, way off.

This is on PC for me also.

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Rohsiph

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I think it's accurate to say some games on there are "fleeting," and the warning for games coming off I don't think counts as "tons of heads up." Haven't payed close enough attention to throw an example off the top of my head, but I vaguely recall at least some games only being on the service for ~2-3 months, with only ~1 week notice before they were pulled.

On the other hand... all 1st party Microsoft stuff is there to stay. That's where I see the value, even though I tend to only dig into one or two Microsoft games a year.

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Efesell

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Eh, they give adequate heads up.. provided you remember to go to that tab.

I wouldn't accuse them of burying it in the interface but it is up to you to remember it's there and to check it regularly.

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ToughShed

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#11  Edited By ToughShed

@rohsiph said:

I think it's accurate to say some games on there are "fleeting," and the warning for games coming off I don't think counts as "tons of heads up." Haven't payed close enough attention to throw an example off the top of my head, but I vaguely recall at least some games only being on the service for ~2-3 months, with only ~1 week notice before they were pulled.

On the other hand... all 1st party Microsoft stuff is there to stay. That's where I see the value, even though I tend to only dig into one or two Microsoft games a year.

there's a giant banner on the front of the Xbox app where they always will put up one for stuff leaving and a whole seperate tab for it... not sure what else you want man. It's clear. And fleeting is not accurate.

Would love to see something to back up a claim of 1 week on the app.

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Efesell

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I'm sure it's down to individual deals, the big games recently will be Banner Saga 3 and soon Kingdom Come Deliverance both of which I think were on the service for a year.

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cikame

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I want to play all the games but i want to play in my own time, some days i might not want to play at all, paying a subscription and feeling like the value i get is better if i play harder or faster is not what i want, i want to be able to play old games, emulated games, new games, Skribbl.io, whatever fleeting desire i have without feeling pressured to use a thing i'm paying for.

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Ryuku_Ryosake

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Sure Game Pass is a deal when you look at it on paper.

But when I look at it. I see that on Steam I have access to library of 500 games I have mostly curated aside from some humble bundle also-rans. I got the itch.io bundle of 2000s games or whatever. I have 100s of whatever PS+ games I've gotten. Those are just digital libraries not counting games I have bought for the digital age and prior. So for 0 more additional dollars I have more games than I could probably play in my lifetime and that all mostly games I have an interest in or were so cheap that they might as well have been $0.

Which I think points to the problem of the Netflix of games approach. The hours to $ ratio in games is so high in comparison to movies and television that given enough time in the hobby you will end up in the same situation I am in. Game Pass would be great if this is your first or second console or a Madden and GTA type player.

For me personally why should I pay a subscription to yet another library? It is close to that so cheap as it might as well be $0 thing. Too bad I missed out on those $1 for how ever much deals. I almost certainly won't be finding use for it. I have no interest in MS exclusives there is a reason why the Xbox is the only MS console I own. The studios they picked up all make games that I would only purchase at extreme discount anyways. My only experience with the Windows store for PSO2 was nothing short of a nightmare and Windows store version of games are literally the worst possible conceivable version and way to play a game. The amount of ridiculous permission hoops I had to go through to do one tiny user tweak to fix a bug in a PC game was awful.

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tp0p

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Microsoft is giving you both options. You can drop 500 on a console and 60-70 dollars on games(gamepass is not stopping anyone from doing this). Or you can pick up gamepass on other platforms.

Playstation, you literally have only one option to spend 500 on the console and 60-70 on games like Spiderman miles Morales on launch.

I like having the option

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ToughShed

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#16  Edited By ToughShed

@tp0p said:

Microsoft is giving you both options. You can drop 500 on a console and 60-70 dollars on games(gamepass is not stopping anyone from doing this). Or you can pick up gamepass on other platforms.

That's what I really don't get from some of the complaints on here.

Also, they put brand new games on there. I paid 5 dollars to pay Gears Tactics right on release (and it was a great game I would have been happy with at full price). I don't need to even play that much more to make that worth it for me. The value is very high, even if you only play a few things. I didn't play that much of the total catalog when I had it but it was easily still worth it. I saved 55 on one game.

I just unsubbed because there wasn't anything I wanted to play atm. And I can jump back in when there is for a tiny price when I decide to again. Meanwhile, I buy games like always.

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someoneproud

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#17  Edited By someoneproud

Microsoft is offering the better deal even if Game Pass is pointless for me personally. Xbox doesn't have a lot of the games I want though & no amount of value for money with a big library of games I'm not really interested in is gonna change that.

I am tentatively looking forward to Avowed and Fable but I'll be buying them outright on PC when they release. Not having to buy an Xbox for a couple of games is nice and I appreciate it, although I doubt I'd buy one for those 2 games anyway tbh.

I'm hoping they start showing off more of the fruits of all those acquisitions soon, I think Xbox still has some tricks up their sleeves and I'm looking forward to them showing what they've got.

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ActuallyDeevees

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@someoneproud: A lot of people definitely overlook some of the studios under Microsoft's umbrella. We still don't know what the Initiative is working on and Ninja Theory can put out some good ass games (we don't talk about Bleeding Edge).

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someoneproud

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@actuallydeevees: Yeah, given the good track records of many of the studios and the presumably intensive financial backing they'll get from MS, I'm expecting some real good stuff to come.

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OurSin_360

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Yeah, with 70-100 dollar games coming being able to pay like 5-15 bux for a month to play some stuff seems alright to me. I wouldn't keep it long term and would probably just get it for new releases. I do miss owning stuff but at the same time I don't think most people will be able to afford next gen with where they seem to ge going with the price. Minimum wage hasn't kept up with inflation.

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Ryuku_Ryosake

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One thing I forgot to bring up in my earlier post. Is I do worry what happens if the Game Pass model does really take off. I would worry what sort of schemes the publishers would get up to try an monetize on the situation.

Will microtransactions and such somehow get even worse than we currently stand? Will the $70 dollar released copy of game merely become small vertical slice advertisements to go on game pass to sell you $80 worth of live content?

Will publishers wait until the get a mega hit on game pass to then remove it early to splinter it off as the flagship title to build their own streaming service with? Thus we see the same splintering we have currently on video streaming.

Something would have to happen. A truly successful game pass that remains a good deal would ultimately mean a large base spending less games than they did before and the big publishers are legally obligated to pull in more money. Game Pass would need to bring in a large amount of people that are not paying for games. Which is way less than the base of people that were pirating music, movies, and tv for those services to bring in. Or the service remain separate from everyone normal spending habits and they just turn on the subscription still directly purchase most of the games they would have because they are not on game pass.

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pweidman

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@rohsiph said:

I think it's accurate to say some games on there are "fleeting," and the warning for games coming off I don't think counts as "tons of heads up." Haven't payed close enough attention to throw an example off the top of my head, but I vaguely recall at least some games only being on the service for ~2-3 months, with only ~1 week notice before they were pulled.

On the other hand... all 1st party Microsoft stuff is there to stay. That's where I see the value, even though I tend to only dig into one or two Microsoft games a year.

there's a giant banner on the front of the Xbox app where they always will put up one for stuff leaving and a whole seperate tab for it... not sure what else you want man. It's clear. And fleeting is not accurate.

Would love to see something to back up a claim of 1 week on the app.

No you're right Toughshed. "Fletting" is just plain erroneous. Games stay for a long time. Been on the Pass since it launched, and this has been my experience throughout, and I look at the line-up all the time.

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stinger061

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My biggest fear for gamepass is the quality and scope of games that will be developed specifically knowing that is the platform on which the game will predominately feature. The idea 'it's worth playing if you are subscribed to gamepass' has come up for just about every Microsoft first party game released since gamepass became a thing. I'd prefer to see Microsoft pushing the limits and making industry leading games as they did during the 360 era but it seems like this isn't their strategy which is a shame.

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Colonel_Pockets

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@stinger061: 100% agree with this. It feels like they're aiming to make most of their games GAAS which is an issue for since I am already in on so many other games like that. Sony argues they'll just partner with the big GAAS games while they develop big budget single player games that are viewed as "prestige" titles. Making a GAAS limits the type of limits they can push, but we will see how this all plays out.

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stinger061

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@colonel_pockets: So far they seem to be making only half a move in the GAAS direction which also means their titles aren't even pushing forward that style of game or being talked about in the same conversation as the most successful in that genre. As others have said there is also a question about how microtransactions/battle passes that keep other GAAS titles going get implemented to stuff on gamepass. In that sense it would kind of be a step back to the MMO subscription model where you are paying both a subscription to play the game at all and then having microtransactions on top which I can't see being particularly popular (albeit with the subscription getting you a lot more than your typical MMO one does).

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ToughShed

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#26  Edited By ToughShed

@stinger061 said:

In that sense it would kind of be a step back to the MMO subscription model where you are paying both a subscription to play the game at all and then having microtransactions on top which I can't see being particularly popular (albeit with the subscription getting you a lot more than your typical MMO one does).

also probably important to mention that WoW and MMO subs you are trying to make some comparison to here cost 3 times as much a month, in addition to getting you way less. Not remotely similar.