We’ve all seen the threads from prominent gaming journalists and personalities, as well as developers, about Xbox Game Pass being “the best deal in gaming.” And for what it’s worth, all of that grandstanding on social media is true. Xbox Game Pass is a pretty incredible deal, one that offers subscribers access to a constantly changing library of games for a decent cost.
While it feels as though the service is everywhere now — from social media timelines to commercials for games that proudly announce they’ll be available the day they launch via Game Pass — it hasn’t met Microsoft’s expectations. According to a recent report from Axios, subscriber growth for the service is a whopping 11% below where the company wants it to be.
Over the course of 12 months ending on June 30, Xbox Game Pass’ subscriber count grew 37%, a number that should have Sony asking itself why it hasn’t implemented a similar service. But that’s still far below the goal set by Microsoft, which wanted to see a total gain in subscribers of 48%. Suffice it to say that someone at the top isn’t happy.
But if Microsoft wants to see subscriber gains of nearly 50%, it needs to simply wait a bit. Subscription services have diminishing returns by nature unless constantly updated with new and exciting content. And while Game Pass is constantly adding new content (with its most recent notable addition being Back 4 Blood), its best year is shaping up to be 2022.
Over the past two years, Microsoft has been on a shopping spree. It’s been buying studios, big and small, and uniting them under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella. The company’s biggest purchase, last year’s $7.5 billion deal to acquire ZeniMax Media and all of its subsidiaries, including Bethesda, ID Software, and Arkane Studios, will finally come to full fruition in 2022.
Microsoft hasn’t exactly been able to benefit from that deal this year at all. The largest release from any of those companies, Arkane’s Deathloop, is, ironically, exclusive to the PS5 due to an agreement made between ZeniMax and Sony before the acquisition.
Next year, though, that’s set to change. Machine Games, another studio owned by ZeniMax, has two titles ripe for announcements next year: Its untitled Indiana Jones game and a third mainline entry in the Wolfenstein reboot. The former has generated a ton of noise, while the latter is simply long-awaited by fans of the franchise.
Then there’s Playground Games and its upcoming Fable title. There hasn’t been news from the studio about the game since its announcement in July 2020. It’s reasonable to expect that some news regarding the game will come about next year.
But the main seller of Xbox Game Pass subscriptions next year will come from Xbox’s main target of the ZeniMax Media acquisition. Bethesda’s first original title in over a decade, Starfield, is set to launch in November 2022. Releases from Bethesda are many things, including few and far between, highly anticipated, and well-publicized. And they always sell well.
The company is prestigious for its two other franchises, Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, which practically dominate the world of Western RPGs. Starfield already has hype around it, and that’s only going to increase once another trailer (and hopefully gameplay) are shown at next year’s E3. Once it’s time for that game to actually launch, it’s only a question of how many users will flock to Game Pass to play it for a low price on day one.
Subscriber growth may be down, but Microsoft is playing the long game here. Get ready for the payoff.