After a heavy push for more and more content to flesh out Game Pass, albeit without a heavy-hitting first-party focus, Microsoft has confirmed that they missed their annual growth projection for the service. (as initially spotted by Axios in a Microsoft financial filing) Their goal was a growth of 47.79%, and they came in at 37.48%. Microsoft doesn’t officially release numbers, but during an earning’s call in January, Satya Nadella stated that they were at 18 million subscribers at the time.
Missing goals isn’t ever a good thing, but I don’t think the service is in any sort of dire straits, and here is why:
Halo Was Delayed.
It’d be hard to avoid memes from Halo’s disastrous reveal from last year. Based on a handful of solid flights for the game’s multiplayer offering, it appears that was the right move in all aspects. Would it have probably boosted numbers? Certainly. But, the overall bad publicity (and likely poor reviews) would do far more harm to the franchise than good.
Some of this concern was quelled with an outstanding two flights of the multiplayer portion of Halo. I don’t think it will go back to its Halo 2-3 days with a drastically different multiplayer landscape, but they can definitely carve out a large piece of the pie. As per the campaign, that’s a good question. A lot of the fun I’ve had with the franchise was going through the campaign in co-op. Hopefully we get some news of the campaign before the multiplayer portion releases.
Forza Horizon 5 and Halo End Close Out The Year
Having missed their projection by 11% isn’t ideal, but two of Microsoft’s biggest IP’s should help to alleviate some of that pain. In a sense, their ability for this type of growth (37%) with few big first-party exclusives showcases the overall staying power of the service. This isn’t (and wasn’t) billed as a solely first-party venture. It may be the initial draw, but third party partnerships and a huge influx of indie titles give Game Pass a firm, if ever-evolving footing.
Forza Horizon 5 is always a well reviewed and received title. The first Forza Horizon received an 85 meta critic rating, and Forza Horizon 4 received a 92 metacritic rating. That might be hard to top, but the previews of 5 have been glowing. As per Halo, 343 Industries has its work cut out for them. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the flights should provide reasons for optimism.
That would be two first party, and normally critically acclaimed, franchises launching just one month apart, all for your subscription price.
The Bethesda Acquisition
$7.5bn later, Microsoft acquired an immensely talented publisher with equally talented studios underneath it. It also provided an influx of 20 games to the service. From franchises such as Doom, Dishonored, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and more, Bethesda and their studios were a massive acquisition no matter the price tag. Add in the fact that Starfield and many other titles that Sony was surely looking to buy temporary exclusivity for (as they did with Deathloop), are now console exclusives to Microsoft. Oh yeah, and they will be included day one on Game Pass.
Game Pass is an absolutely insane value if you have the time to play the plethora of titles. With them stepping up and getting closer to feature parity between Xbox Series S|X, PC (albeit with a horrendous Game Pass app) and Cloud, the service should continue to grow; if not, exceed expectations once the heavy-hitters arrive. I would expect for this growth phase to begin to slow as further market saturation is obtained. The chip shortage also isn’t doing them any favors, as there is no better way to entice a feature-rich sub than with a shiny new console.