“Remember when you would watch TV, some commercial for a new movie would come on, and your dad would say, ‘That’s going to be a rental’? I’m assuming we all had the same dad that hated spending money at the movie theater - even though movies used to only cost like $8, but I digress.”
First of all, I was that Dad, but only for movies that were obviously going to be bad, and there were a lot of them in the Blockbuster years. Second, it’s really obnoxious to be on the verge of replacing Boomers as the butt of old people jokes. Go back to just ignoring Gen X, please! Now I digress…
I’ve raved many times about Game Pass Ultimate being one of the best subscription offerings in the media business, and with Microsoft’s acquisition spree over the past few years, it’s only getting better. I’m more likely to spend money on a discounted backward compatible Xbox 360 game nowadays — Hello, Conan (2007)! 69 on Metacritic? Nice.
— than a brand new game because in many cases, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be able to play it for free within a year, which in most cases, is when I’ll have time for it. In fact, I haven’t bought a brand new game since The Division 2
came out in 2019, but I’ve played several brand new games through Game Pass, including several I would have never given a try if I had to pay $40+ for them.
I disagree with Switzer’s fatalistic conclusion that this will be a bad thing, though. While it’s certainly likely it will shift what kinds of games are successful outside of the subscription model, I suspect it will also mean more interesting smaller games from smaller developers, and fewer annualized releases of formulaic AAA games from overworked developers only able to offer modest cosmetic tweaks… or completely broken launches.
The underlying logic also applies to ebook sales and libraries, where purchases have slightly shifted away from pre-ordained frontlist “bestsellers” as readers realize they don’t actually need or want to own them, but we know book publishers don’t learn from other media. Games are niche, after all!
The answer isn’t to fight Game Pass (or libraries), it’s to embrace changes in consumer behavior and adjust your business model to deal with reality. Smart publishers will evolve and thrive; new publishers will replace those who can’t or won’t. Lather, rinse, repeat.