Comcast recently announced that it was going to add data caps to home customers in over a dozen states next year. On the basic tier it's a 1.2 terabyte cap, which isn't too low, but a charge of $10 for every 50 gigabytes over that cap. This is, of course, a massive issue for all kinds of things during the pandemic, from streaming video to Zoom, but it's an even bigger issue for games right now, which have exploded in size recently. Mortal Kombat 11, for example, is 100 gigabytes for the Xbox Series X version. If you've hit your cap that means it would cost $20 to download it.
Of course you might think that almost nobody downloads a full terabyte of games in one month, and that's mostly true. I've probably done that this month because I downloaded a bunch of stuff for my new Xbox, but it's rare. However it's obviously not just game downloading that sucks up bandwidth. Pretty much everything you do, does, so your actual budget for games is likely much smaller. Even worse, a lot of the downloading that takes place comes in the form of massive patches, which often clearly replace huge chunks of games and are not at all designed to minimize patch size. That means that, especially if you play games online (which also eats up bandwidth) and are required to have the current version up to date, you might be hit with mammoth downloads not just because you bought something new but because some game you play decided to update and the developers thought it was easier just to replace everything than to patch whatever they're fixing or adding.
This is already a big issue and the fact that companies are continuing to expand datacaps even as games continue to balloon in file size is eventually going to cause these business models to clash with one another. You often can't even get around it by buying physical games because they also often have massive day one patches, which frequently are basically required to make the things run even remotely well. Good luck with that unpatched version of Cyberpunk this December! Both Sony and Microsoft are putting out digital only boxes, and Nintendo is frequently shipping games on Switch cartridges where big chunks of the game have to be downloaded and aren't on the cart at all, patched or not. Obviously PC gaming is almost entirely download-based at this time, with physical PC games often being more of a novelty than a serious business model for big budget releases.
But as bad as the situation is in general, it's even more threatening for Gamepass and to a lesser extent game streaming. Gamepass's whole model is built on offering people a wide selection of stuff they can download and try out with no commitment. While some of the games are small indie titles of only a few gigs, many titles on the service are huge games that may still be getting patches. If you want to play Quantum Break and download the high quality video files that's going to be another 100 gig behemoth. Forza Horizon 4 comes in at a relatively svelte 63 gigs, but that's still a full 5% of your data, and over $10 to download if you've hit your cap. These games are big and especially with small hard drives on the new systems it's going to be hard to get people to sample a bunch of stuff if they're up against an expensive data cap.
Obviously data caps are bad and totally unjustified for a host of reasons, but I think that the fact that they're not only not going away but expanding is pretty dangerous for the games industry's current model and for Gamepass in particular. The game industry is all in on massive downloads, often more than once over the course of a game's life, and while that might be manageable for people who only buy one or two games a month, it's going to be a much harder situation for heavy users, people who get new consoles and want to download a bunch of stuff for them, and especially people who are paying for Gamepass's all you can eat service.