This story has stayed remarkably consistent over the years. I’ve lost count of the number of times Decker has told it to me since Xbox Game Pass launched back in 2017, but as far as anecdotal evidence goes it’s always been fairly convincing. The purpose of the story is to demonstrate that “we’re playing more and we’re connected more”, and that groups of friends are coming into the platform for Xbox’s marquee releases and sticking around to see if they can discover a new favorite – Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, maybe even an indie. To help prove it, Microsoft partnered with Opinium in December 2020 to conduct research and gather data from 14,000 gamers across Europe to explore how Xbox Game Pass is changing the ways that we play.
Ben Decker likes to tell this one story. Xbox’s head of gaming services has a group of friends from Junior High that gets together to play new Gears of War games. Well, they try to. Despite doing this for more than a decade, there’s always one hold out – Kumar – who doesn’t buy into the war on Sera right away. The rest of Decker’s Delta Squad then needs to spend time, precious time that could be spent sawing through Locust, hassling their buddy to purchase the game, to get online, and to party up and play. That is, until Xbox Game Pass carved out the friction. Because Gears 5 was available through the subscription service from day one, the full group was able to blast through it with little consternation, and, when they were done, they had an entire library of games that could keep them playing together.
“We’re coming out with this research to explore how people are using Game Pass and how it is contributing to behaviours,” says Decker, “and it really reinforces a lot of things that we’ve heard from our members.” That’s key here because Microsoft has maintained, from the beginning, that the service would be shaped by those that use it. Game Pass’ functionality, availability, and catalogue is all being steered by players as Microsoft works to build a service that can sit at the centre of the Xbox ecosystem.
This research, Decker believes, justifies a lot of the decisions the gaming services division has made so far. “There are three big things that we hear from members that were reflected in the surveys. The first is that when we ask, ‘what do you want out of Game Pass’, the number one thing, as always, is ‘games’; ‘games, games, games!’ And if you look at the research, nearly 60% say that one of the main reasons they are a Game Pass member is because of the variety of content.”
As it exists today, Xbox Game Pass has over 100 games in its library, and even more for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members – who are able to enjoy the benefits of EA Play, and play across two generations of Xbox, PC, and Android devices via Xbox Cloud Gaming. The research shows that players in the UK are particularly fond of action-adventure, sports and racing, and first-person shooters, while European players switch out FPS games for platformers. It’s because of data like this that pushes Microsoft to make the changes to the library that it does. Introducing titles like MLB The Show to the platform for the first time. Ensuring that racing games like Dirt 5 are being introduced to Game Pass shortly after they launch. Bringing popular games like GTA 5 back into play. This is, of course, on top of the meaningful acquisitions its made in recent years to help expand Xbox’s options and flexibility in areas it can’t so easily serve through third-party partnerships alone.
The News Highlights
- Game Pass is becoming a “core part of people’s gaming lives,” according to Xbox, and the company has the evidence to back that up
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