GAME PASS AND XCLOUD ARE THE RIGHT COMBO
Make the Switch.       



COMMENTARY

By JAY TEE
06/08/20

I love playing games on the stairs.

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When you stack up their relevant offerings, it’s safe to conclude that Xbox Game Pass and the upcoming Project xCloud integration is light years ahead of Google Stadia’s equivalent pitch. The business models couldn’t be more opposed; Stadia’s single purchases with an optional sub, versus Game Pass’ subscription and bundle exclusive streaming feature, are totally different takes that echo the divergent paths of the upcoming next gen console launches.

Microsoft’s secret sauce here is that playing games on a mobile device is being sold as an optional extra, folded into the already bonkers value proposition of Game Pass Ultimate. Dipping in requires an active Game Pass sub and an Android device with decent WiFi. It’s a much lower barrier of entry than dropping some dollar on a streaming exclusive version of one specific game, and a much more reasonable way to stress test your own set up.

Leveraging the existing Game Pass library on multiple devices is a smart “word of mouth” play, as Microsoft continues to shift its marketing priorities away from selling hardware. Xbox Series X is being positioned as an optional upgrade (despite some painfully muddled messaging around cross gen titles), and while that might hinder sales potential in the short term, Microsoft seem willing to roll the dice on a longer term strategy.

Hardware is traditionally always sold at a loss, with software and services making up that shortfall (and then some), and it seems Xbox is doubling down on that approach. Of course, as more people get their hands on games via Game Pass, Series X (as a premium tier purchase) then becomes more attractive to those on the fence, because the value for money equation has been balanced.

The possibilities for “local” online play are very enticing, with xCloud on a phone / tablet, joining a second player via Xbox on a TV. The advent of 5G mobile network will sweeten that deal even further, and the opportunity for players to just “give something a go” via Game Pass with essentially zero risk (besides their own personal gaming time), will assist in further adoption of the service.

Since most arguments often devolve into a game of numbers, it would be interesting to know how many of the current 10 million + Game Pass subscribers are already in on the Ultimate bundle, and therefore how many will see xCloud as a reason to bump up their sub. Given Stadia’s extremely lukewarm reception, it would be reasonable to question the attractiveness of streaming as a broader concept, but also whether Game Pass is the missing ingredient to making it viable.

For the short term, it’s likely xCloud will be seen as “added value” to existing Ultimate subs as yet another deal sweetener to maintain loyalty. However, there’s a gargantuan population of mobile only gamers out there, who might be more willing to dip a toe since Game Pass’ ever expanding library continues to bring the heat.

Project xCloud launches for Game Pass subscribers with an Android phone / tablet on September 15th.


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