Today, Phil Spencer and Satya Nadella held a virtual briefing with upper Xbox management and the press to discuss the future of gaming for Xbox, and the importance of leveraging its technologies for the benefit of gamers and developers. Additionally, a series of Xbox Wire blogposts were published to highlight some of the key points of discussion for the public to peruse. There was a treasure trove of details to sift through from both instances, so here are the main highlights.
Xbox Game Pass continues to a massive driver for player engagement and developer success. Microsoft’s internal data shows that subscribers play 30% more genres and 40% more games overall; moreover nearly every Game Pass subscriber has said they played at least one game they would not have without the service. As a result, developers are seeing an increase on additional content spending by 50%, and contrary to what may be spun around the net, software purchases by Game Pass users are continuing to be a boon for developers; Outriders, which launched in Game Pass, was the top seller for its launch week and maintained a top 10 position for the month of April. Similary, Sony’s own MLB: The Show 21 was the top seller on Xbox for April and the second largest sports launch of all time on the console. Clearly, the subscription is a mutually-beneficial service for gamers and developers alike.
Microsoft’s success with Xbox Game Pass does not mean that they’re resting on their laurels in terms of acquiring content however, as the most recent statements made by Matt Booty imply. The Head of Xbox Game Studios reiterated that Xbox “will continue to look for studios that can add great people, great teams, great new ideas to our lineup… we are growing our studios organization through acquisition.” Specifically, as Phil Spencer has repeated often, Xbox is looking towards studios that they have existing relationships with and those that can aid in providing a diverse portfolio of genres and gameplay styles. This should come as no surprise as Phil Spencer, Satya Nadella, Aaron Greenberg, and Matt Booty have all made statements that confirmed the company will continue to pursue studio acquisitions, even after the Zenimax Media acquisition was announced at the tail end of September. What could be considered news, beyond the direct confirmation of previous allusions, is the goal for Xbox to release a new game every quarter. Ultimately, Matt described a roadmap to bolster content for Xbox Game Pass, and as a result increase the value proposition to its existing subscribers, and newcomers alike.
Directly highlighting the added value of Game Pass, Spencer and Nadella discussed how leveraging Microsoft’s technologies, like Azure, can promote the democratization of gaming and improve capabilities for developers. Microsoft Flight Simulator has already provided a real-world example of the success developers have seen bridging the myriad of Microsoft solutions (Azure, spatial compute, Bing maps, etc.). According to the two executives, we should expect to see those solutions and others, like Azure Playfab, to see further utilization by developers as the gap between cloud and local compute becomes smaller. Furthermore, gamers should expect several enhancements to their Game Pass experience, from “try before you buy” streaming additions to Xbox and PC, expanded regions for xCloud availability, and more as described here.
All said, the primary takeaway for gamers, and especially Xbox fans, is that Microsoft is continuing to leverage its full might towards Xbox via its resources and technologies. As a result, gamers can expect a consistent output from Xbox Game Studios, the availability and function of xCloud to improve, and for the family of studios to continue to grow over time.