Former Xbox Exec Admits Game Pass Makes Him ‘Nervous’

Former Xbox Exec Admits Game Pass Makes Him ‘Nervous’

A collage of video game characters, including Master Chief and Lara Croft, stand close together while looking left.

Picture: Xbox/Microsoft

Ed Fries, the former Microsoft Vice President for Game Publishing who launched the original Xbox, recently appeared on a podcast where he discussed some concerns he has regarding Xbox Game Pass. Fries said he was “afraid” the service could lead to a future in which people stop buying games, opting instead to pay just one monthly subscription to access everything. In his opinion, this is a similar scenario to what happened with Spotify and the move towards music streaming, an outcome which he says hasn’t been great for musicians or houses. discs. And he fears a similar future is in store for the games industry.

Yesterday fries appeared on the Xbox Expansion Podcast in a lengthy interview covering several topics including Halo, the executive’s involvement in the Xbox launch at Microsoft, the console’s struggles in Japan, and current Xbox boss Phil Spencer. Near the end of the interview, the host asked Fries if there were any changes or adjustments he would make to Xbox’s current strategy. Although he didn’t elaborate, he called Game Pass the only thing the company did that made him “nervous.”

“Game Pass scares me,” Fries explained. “Because there’s a somewhat analogous thing called Spotify that was created for the music industry. And uh…when Spotify took off, it destroyed the music industry. I mean, it has literally halved the annual revenue of the music industry and it made people stop buying songs.

“So we have to be careful not to create the same system in the gaming sector. I mean, these markets are more fragile than people realize,” Fries continued. “I saw the game industry crumble in the early 80s. I saw the educational software industry crumble in the mid-90s. So Game Pass makes me nervous. As a customer, I love it. I love Spotify as a customer: I have all the songs I want…it’s a lot as a customer. But that’s not necessarily good for the industry.

Kotaku has reached out to Microsoft for comment.

Fries further claimed that the rise of music streaming services like Spotify convinced Apple to stop selling songs because, in his own words, “nobody buys them anymore.”

However, as reported by VGC, some of the former Xbox executive’s claims are disputed by people in the music industry. One statistic used to counter Fries’ claim that the industry has been cut in half by the rise of streaming was that when Spotify launched in 2011, the global recording industry grossed around $15 billion. revenue dollars. In 2021, a decade after Spotify helped popularize music streaming, the industry brought in $25.9 billion in revenue.

That said, while the industry as a whole has continued to grow, individual artists and smaller groups have reported earning very little through streaming services because most of the popular ones only pay a fraction of a penny per stream.

It should also be noted that although Apple has made changes to iTunes and its digital stores, you can always buy songs and albums.

Yet while some of Fries’ claims are debatable, what isn’t is that Game Pass has indeed changed the industry. With over 25 million subscribers, Game Pass has become a major focus for Xbox and its boss Phil Spencer as the company continues to bring big games and popular indie titles service every month. Fans have widely embraced Game Pass because it allows people with less money to play more games than ever before. Sony even seems to be change its long-running PlayStation Plus service to look more like Game Pass, adding more tiers that offer larger libraries of new and old games, much like Microsoft’s offerings.

While Game Pass has certainly changed the way people buy and play games, it’s not all good news, especially for smaller developers.

Independent studio The Game Bakers recently spoke to Waypoint about the studio’s decision not to release a new update for Furi on Xbox as it did not sell well on the platform. According to the developers, on Xbox it has become increasingly important for smaller games to launch via Game Pass or risk being left behind. And even when you release your indie game on Game Pass, like the studio did with 2021’s Haven, that’s no guarantee it’ll lead to increased sales or profits.

A similar situation occurred with Square Enix’s AAA shooter Outriders. who has not yet made a profit a year after its launch on Microsoft’s subscription service.

Read more: After years of hype, Xbox Game Pass Burnout is here

It seems reasonable to imagine that as Xbox Game Pass continues to grow and add more games at a faster pace, it might become even harder to stand out from the crowd and succeed on the service. And if Sony’s PS Plus redesign helps attract more subscribers, it’s very possible that these two big companies as well as newcomers wanting a piece of that pie will continue to expand the reach of gaming subscription services, something Fries is also concerned about.

For now, Game Pass is still quite small compared to Spotify, and most games are still released across multiple platforms and not exclusively as part of a subscription service, a fact Fries acknowledged during from the podcast.

“The percentage of all games that are on Game Pass is still tiny, and there are a lot of games,” Fries admitted, “200 games a week are released on Steam, and more than that are released on mobile, iOS and Android .”

“So, you know, that’s one thing that worries me for the future. But this is one thing that worries me. »


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