We’re all familiar with the concept of Games as a service. As inflation increases and margins fall, companies are trying to steer consumers away from once-off purchases. The development of micro-transactions, games as a service and — gasp — lootboxes have all been instrumental in securing new revenue streams for game developers and publishers. While some of these new practices have been met with considerable disdain, games-as-a-service seems to be a good value proposition. You’d even wonder how EA are making any money at this point as they allow users to play their most popular games for just 4 euro a month. Microsoft was one of the first large companies to adopt this practice; they launched their Games with Gold service in 2013.
Microsoft’s brave new world
Microsoft’s new strategy is a mixture of old and new. They are essentially combining the games-as-a-service model with a very cheap hardware financing plan and marketing it as the definitive console experience. If you’re new to console gaming, it seems like a phenomenal deal; you can get a console and plenty of games to play for just $21 a month (on the Xbox One S plan). This isn’t a rental scheme either — once you’ve been a subscriber for two years, you get to keep the console as well.
So far so good, right? Unfortunately, this deal is only available in the US. It isn’t available online, so you won’t be able to use parcel forwarding services either. But let’s be honest; this is hardly a surprise for the typical Irish consumer. New services have always taken longer to reach us — I personally remember agonizingly waiting for Spotify’s Irish launch in 2012. But it’s early days for Microsoft’s all-access plan. A worldwide release could well be in the works — although since Microsoft hasn’t said anything on the matter, we’re being quite speculative here. We will be sure to update the article as new information arises.
Of course, there are more issues with Microsoft’s new plan than just the availability of it. For one, the included game pass could give Microsoft an unfair monopoly; somebody who’s already paying to rent a console may not be keen to buy a game that’s not included in the game pass. This is fantastic for publishers who are generating income on the side from having their older titles in the game pass. On the other hand, smaller publishers can be put at a strong disadvantage if their games aren’t in the pass.
Who’s going to spend money on an indie game when they have a plethora of classic games at their fingertips? It’s a lose-lose situation; if smaller publishers do get in bed with Microsoft, they lose the ability to price their own games. While games-as-a-service is an excellent value proposition for consumers, it fundamentally diminishes the value of games and may end up restricting innovation in the games industry.
With that said, the all-access pass is still worth it for the hardware savings alone. If you’re interested in getting into console gaming on the cheap, it’s worth waiting to see if this deal comes to Ireland.