Xbox Game Pass has emerged over the last several years as a new publishing strategy for Microsoft. The subscription service was not exactly the first of its kind, but definitely the first to be done on the scale it has been. The service has been a boon for players, too, as a constant stack of games come and go from the service, not to mention the ever growing slate of first party titles that will remain there forever. But it’s still a new venture, and one that leads to much speculation about just how sustainable a model it is for the future, as pondered by one former CEO of PlayStation.
Speaking with GamesIndustry, former Sony executive Shawn Layden, who served as many different major positions within the platform holder, spoke about a lot of things relating to the current gaming industry. When talking about Game Pass, he expressed some doubt that the service could be sustainable on a long-term basis. He cites the ballooning budgets of game developer as doubt that the service can continue without some changes.
“It’s very hard to launch a $120m game on a subscription service charging $9.99 a month. You pencil it out, you’re going to have to have 500 million subscribers before you start to recoup your investment.
“That’s why right now you need to take a loss-leading position to try to grow that base. But still, if you have only 250 million consoles out there, you’re not going to get to half a billion subscribers. So how do you circle that square? Nobody has figured that out yet.”
Layden’s thought isn’t a new one, by any means, but it’s also something that is difficult to know without some type of inside information. Xbox’s Phil Spencer has been largely dismissive of concerns of sustainability for Game Pass, saying the service is less about numbers of players and more about engagement and overall the revenue from gaming has been in the net positive for Microsoft. What that means for the math Layden is referencing here is simply unknown for anyone outside the office, so to speak, but it’ll be interesting to see what changes come to the service as time goes on.