Microsoft’s Latest Gaming Announcements Look Promising
Microsoft is determined to build on its already massive gaming platform in the face of growing competition from Google and Amazon. A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced some major changes to its next-generation gaming platform in a blog post, You Are the Future of Gaming. The post explains some important changes that Microsoft is making as it relates to its gaming platform, all of which reflect a strong awareness that players need to come first.
A few highlights from Microsoft’s latest announcements:
All Xbox Game Studios titles launch into Xbox Game Pass. This is a significant move from Microsoft. The inclusion of all Xbox Game Studios titles into its Game Pass program is a strong incentive for users to subscribe. Popular titles such as Halo Infinite and Forza Motorsport will be available on a subscription basis. Xbox Game Pass currently ranges in price from $4.99 per month for PC only, to a $14.99 per month bundle for PC, Console, and an Xbox Live subscription. Taking the higher price of $14.99, a gamer will break even if they intend on purchasing three full price ($59.99) titles per year. If they’re already subscribing to Xbox Live ($59.99 per year), that breakeven number falls to two games. Microsoft is betting that it can bring its existing player base onto its subscription platform.
Gamers won’t be forced into the next generation. Any new games released in the next few years will be available on both the Xbox One and the upcoming Series X. In years past, new games were sold as different SKUs, and developers typically stopped making games for the previous generation. In addition to the continued support for new games, there will be four generations worth of games that will be available for the Series X at launch through backwards compatibility. Microsoft wants its entire gaming library to be available to both the current and the newest console generation. In addition, any accessories for the current generation of Xbox will work on the upcoming console, effectively lowering the cost to upgrade.
Halo Infinite will establish itself as a live services game and its multiplayer will be free-to-play. This announcement was perhaps the most surprising. In the upcoming version of Halo, the highly anticipated multiplayer will be free to play for everyone on an Xbox or PC. While this is the sixth version of the game, the second installment – Halo 2 — defined multiplayer gaming on the original Xbox. The series is hoping to capture some of that same magic. While there is no battle royale mode at launch, we expect the series to follow suit within the first year of the game. Battle royale is an undeniable trend in gaming that is a must-have for the series if it aims to compete with Fortnite and Call of Duty.
Studio head Chris Lee shared in an interview with IGN that, “We want Infinite to grow over time, versus going to those number titles and having all of that segmentation that we had before.” This clearly follows the trend of titles like League of Legends and Fortnite that focus on evolving a single title over time vs releasing new titles. Lee’s comments, combined with Halo’s free-to-play multiplayer, represent an aggressive move as Call of Duty Modern Warzone reaches record player engagement. While Call of Duty is set to release a new title this holiday quarter as well, the long-term commitment to Halo as an evolving title vs a single new release CoD may sway some players on the edge towards the Halo franchise.
Overall, Microsoft’s latest announcements have been positive for gamers, which is a breath of fresh air. During the last console launch (Xbox One), users were led to believe their consoles had to be connected to the internet to work, they were forced to purchase a Kinect sensor with their console, and platform exclusives were the focus. Today, the focus is where it should be: on the gamer.
While a price point hasn’t been announced for the Series X yet, we anticipate the console’s pricing to be favorable to gamers. The company may hold out as long as possible before sharing a price as they’ll want to match or undercut Sony’s PlayStation 5 pricing. With the last generation of consoles, Microsoft struggled with consumers due to its $100 higher price point. For the upcoming launch, Microsoft can leverage its cloud business to subsidize the hardware cost to gamers, something Sony isn’t able to do.