Should Gamers Pass on Game Pass?

Recently Xbox has announced that all new Xbox exclusives will be available day and date with Xbox’s Game Pass. So what does that mean? Well, for $9.99 a month, you will have access to a digital games library of over 100 titles. When Xbox exclusives are released (such as Gears of War 5, Halo 6, Fable 4 etc), they will be available same day as release on Game Pass.

So what does that mean for the average gamer? Considering the average game at full retail is $60, if you bought two games a year, you would spend the same $120 for Game Pass. Meaning, if you would have bought two full priced games in a year, then you have already broken even using Game Pass.

You may be asking where Xbox makes money on this. Well let’s break down some numbers. According to Wikipedia (take any numbers worth a grain of salt, but I’m fairly certain on their validity), approximately 25-30 million Xbox Ones have been sold. If a mere 20% of Xbox users use the service for the $9.99 a month, Xbox is looking at making $59,940,000. Pretty impressive huh? And that’s only a single month. Over a twelve month period, they would make a staggering $719,280,000.

Consider this: The top selling Xbox One game according to Wikipedia is Halo 5 at around 5 million units sold. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that each of those games was sold for full retail ie $60 (most certainly they were not, either via sales or system add ons ect). Halo 5 would have made $300 million. Now let’s also consider the next closest in sales is Forza Horizon with 2.5 million sales. So one year of Game Pass, with a mere 20% of users, would net Xbox more money in one year then their top two sellers combined.

This move has been met with near universal praise from gamers. But is all as well as it seems? I guess that depends on whether we consider all the effects this will have.

According to a report form IGN.COM, certain UK retailers are threatening to boycott Xbox products.

“Essentially, it’s made [our Xbox business] worthless overnight,” one UK retailer told the outlet. “You’ve got the whole section sat there, and why would people buy a £12 to £15 second-hand game when they can just pay a tenner and get a massive catalogue of titles to keep them going?”

Now it must be noted that game developers do not receive any cut of preowned video game sales, and the preowned market is something game publishers have been trying to squash for years. This would effectively make any store space reserved for Xbox useless.

So why doesn’t the entire industry move to a digital-only product? It saves the company and the consumer money. There is a multitude of issues to consider.

The real money in video games is not the systems themselves, but the games. Very little profit is made off the sale of each individual console. As such, if you remove a retailer’s ability to sell new and used games, then carrying the console isn’t worth it to the retailer. The problem then becomes for Xbox, how to get the physical boxes into the hands of consumers. If no retailer carries the system (including Amazon and other online sellers), then cheap games don’t really do them much good.

This is one of the main hang ups in the digital revolution. Another issue is while the internet is becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, not every place in the world has an adequate WiFi connection to make an all-digital future viable.

But what about the long term effect for us consumers? Let’s say this really takes off for Xbox, and they start seeing record profits. As with the recent micro-transactions craze in games, the industry follows the money. Do you really want to live in a world where you need to have a subscription to have access to Xbox, Playstaton, EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and so on to game? I, for one, do not.

Let’s also consider the social impact of this change. According to the HuffPost, the top two most common jobs are retail consultants and cashiers. Nearly 8 million Americans relied on these employment opportunities as their main source of income. Retail is slowly dying as Amazon takes over most sales for most Americans. What will 8 million people do for work when retail goes the way of the dinosaur?

Recently, Toys R Us closed 182 stores (nearly 1/5 of their stores) according to CBS News. Many gamers have expressed their love for the former toys juggernaut and a sadness to see it go. But let’s be real. If people were that sad to see Toys R Us go, then it wouldn’t be going because we’d shop at Toys R Us. We need to accept our complicity with what’s going on around us. Are we willing to sacrifice an entire industry for the sake of convenience?

I am not claiming to be above this, as I myself use Amazon for a variety of services. But we all have to decide if we are willing to deal with future woes for current satisfaction.

If I am coming off as overly negative to the Game Pass, I don’t mean to. I think it is a good value for gamers, and Xbox needed to change things up for the opportunity to stay relevant in games. But where does it end? From the gimmicky failures that were the PS Move, Wii, and Connect, to the consumer unfriendly craze of DLC already locked off on the disk, season passes for games not even released yet, and all the games with micro-transactions and loot boxes, do we really trust the games industry on this new path?

Only time will tell. Let me know what you think. Am I being to harsh or lenient? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @Bypartisangamer.

Until next time, this is the Bypartisan Gamer signing off.

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