Microsoft don't intend to do away with selling individual games anytime soon. That's the takeaway from Xbox head Phil Spencer's recent interview with the New York Times. "The retail market continues to be very strong and grow. So let’s make sure we offer our customers choice between subscriptions and transactions," says Spencer.
Spencer was asked whether Game Pass was, effectively, Netflix for video games. "I’d say the difference for us is in the business model of — you can buy every game that’s available on the subscription, which is a little different than a music subscription or a movie subscription," says Spencer.
"I think the option of allowing people to buy, it’s just been a traditional part of gaming. The retail market continues to be very strong and grow. So let’s make sure we offer our customers choice between subscriptions and transactions. That’s probably the only difference between us and some of the video subscriptions."
Spencer also points out that "transaction" is currently bigger than subscription. "Subscription is growing faster, just because it’s relatively new. And with Game Pass, we were one of the first movers in that space. But the transaction business is very large. We still sell physical disks."
Xbox Game Pass - or PC Game Pass, now - is great value for money. There are lots of games I want to play but will like drop after just a few hours, meaning I can't justify buying them at full price. Game Pass let's me sample them. I'm ambivalent however about the growing importance of digital landlords, and I don't relish a world where I give money to Microsoft rather than the actual makers of games.
But given the success of platforms like Steam and Itch, it's probably foolish to think Microsoft are in control of what the future of gaming looks like, even if PC Game Pass is good and getting better.
The rest of the interview is worth a read for Spencer's views on Netflix's first steps into gaming, and brief mention of Microsoft's repsonse to staff mistreatment at Activision Blizzard.
Thanks for the spot, PC Gamer.