Ahead of its Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase on Sunday, where it will reveal its best and biggest-ever games lineup, Microsoft has provided some context for its gaming platform. And it amounts to “Xbox everywhere.”
“We believe that games, that interactive entertainment, aren’t really about hardware and software. It’s not about pixels. It’s about people. Games bring people together,” Microsoft Head of Xbox Phil Spencer says. “Games build bridges and forge bonds, generating mutual empathy among people all over the world. Joy and community – that’s why we’re here.”
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“Gaming is fundamentally aligned with our mission as a company,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, cutting right to the business case. “When you talk about Xbox’s mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet, which I absolutely love, that is precisely aligned with Microsoft’s mission, which is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
Just a few short years ago, Xbox was basically just a videogame console platform, but Microsoft has expanded the brand into PC gaming, mobile gaming, and, more recently, subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. And while it’s still early on in this platform transition, Microsoft has already seen some interesting progress.
Xbox Game Pass has become what Microsoft calls “a game discovery engine,” and it is driving game sales, rather than detracting from them as some critics predicted. Xbox Game Pass members play 40 percent more games across 30 percent more genres than do non-members, and 90 percent of them have tried games they would not have otherwise experienced. Microsoft’s gaming partners have seen engagement jump by 800 percent when they make their games available on the service, and members spend 200 percent more than non-members on game and content purchases.
I’m particularly interested in some specific successes that Microsoft cites, however. EA Play, Electronic Arts’ subscription service, has seen record usage on Xbox Game Pass since it was added as a no-extra-cost perk, with time spent on these titles up over 200 percent; EA Play’s catalog has reached and gained millions of new fans on the Xbox platform, Microsoft says. The Square Enix title Outriders was the number one selling digital game on Xbox during its launch week and a top 10 selling digital game on Xbox in April, despite being available on Xbox Game Pass. And MLB: The Show 21 was the biggest sports game of the past year on Xbox and the second biggest sports game of all time on Xbox, with Game Pass adding millions of new fans and growing the player base significantly.
But I’m even more interested in the future. Here’s what Microsoft has planned for Xbox Game Pass:
Smart TV integration. Xbox is working with TV manufacturers to embed “the Xbox experience” directly into internet-connected televisions, so games won’t need any extra hardware, aside from a controller, to play games.
New subscription offerings. This is a bit vague, but Microsoft says it is “exploring new subscription offerings for Xbox Game Pass so more players around the world can experience the most immersive and fun games across devices, geographies, and financial realities.”
Xbox All Access expansion. Microsoft is working with telecommunications providers on new purchasing models like Xbox All Access, which lets customers buy a console and Game Pass subscription for a low monthly price, rather than paying upfront.
New streaming devices. Microsoft is building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming so that customers can play games on any display without needing a console. This is an exciting development, and Brad has prepared a separate article if you want more information.
Market expansion. Xbox Cloud Gaming through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will launch in Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico later this year.
Xbox Cloud Gaming via web browsers. In “the next few weeks,” cloud gaming on the browser will open to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members And will work with Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is moving to Xbox Series X. Today, Microsoft streams Xbox Cloud Gaming titles via Xbox One X consoles in its datacenters around the world. But the firm is now in the final stages of switching over to newer and more powerful Xbox Series X consoles. “This means gamers will see faster load times, improved frame rates, and experience Xbox Series X|S optimized games” via Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft says.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is coming to the Xbox app on PC. Later this year, Microsoft will add Xbox Cloud Gaming capabilities to the Xbox app on PC.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is coming to Xbox consoles too. Also later this year, Microsoft will and integrate Xbox Cloud Gaming into its console experience to light up scenarios like try before you download.
As important, Microsoft has what it calls “an incredible pipeline of games” coming. There are over 23 game studios creating Xbox games worldwide and Microsoft plans to release at least one first-party game into Xbox Game Pass every quarter going forward. Many of those games will be publicly showcased for the first time this coming Sunday.