Xbox Is Making the Netflix of Games, But It's Missing One Thing: More Games


As of today, if you sign up for Microsoft’s $10-per-month Game Pass service, you’ll not only gain access to a rotating library of on-demand video games, but in the future, every single exclusive published by Microsoft. It’s a shrewd move on Microsoft’s part, but one whose real dividends won’t pay off until Microsoft makes good on its promise to deliver more interesting games for the platform. It’s been one Microsoft's biggest weaknesses this generation, and one of Sony's biggest strengths. (See: today's God of War news.)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


Aside from maybe Spider-Man and Sucker Punch’s weird samurai game, I have a lot of trepidation about the PS4’s upcoming games. I’m not interested in God of War or The Last of Us, and Detroit looks like a Robert Zemeckis nightmare. And their disinterest in supporting their back catalog beyond an overpriced, janky streaming service is super disheartening.

Granted I did just buy an X1X so my biases are pretty clear on that front. I’m not an active Game Pass subscriber because I already have a big library of owned games, but it represents a really good move on top of the stellar backwards compatibility support.


While I agree that Microsoft needs more first and second party development to compete with Sony, I’m more intrigued by what they’re signalling with this move. To me, it looks like Microsoft is positioning the Gamepass as the central service of the Xbox platform, because why else would they give up day one sales of their biggest franchises? I think that by doing this, perhaps Microsoft can convince more third parties to put their games on the service. Maybe not day and date, but possibly within a few months of release like the theater-home video model that Netflix uses. And I think indie developers might be tempted by the steady income stream of a subscription model instead of taking their chances on the various crowded storefronts. Perhaps it will help make indie development not so precarious, but I could be overly optimistic in this regard.

In any case, I’m really excited with Microsoft experimenting with unorthodox distribution models. I feel like we’re on the verge of a subscription revolution in the games industry and I’m glad that at least one of the console makers is embracing that future.


I think I’d be a lot more excited about this if I was either still in school or only owned an Xbox One/s/x.

Hopefully this is a further sign that Microsoft is serious about keeping the Xbox One family around like Apple does iPads and I’m OK upgrading once every 5-6 years to stay current but really so i can just play Dark Souls for ever and ever.


I think Sony was smart to invest in talents that could bring new IP to their platform. I get the impression that Microsoft only cares about franchises and don’t give two shits about who makes the actual games.


I’m not even sure how much of that is investment.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice got some trailers/coverage from Sony but were they an investor in that independent project or just happened to work a co-marketing deal? Plenty came out of Japan that managed to find time to port it to DirectX for a Steam release but not for XB1 and I’m not sure how many of those games last year required Sony to invest to bring it to their platform.

It seems like MS just had the bad luck of a poor start to the generation (not helped by some clear mistakes in both console design and business decisions about the direction of the ecosystem) and lack of presence in a (resurgent) Japanese console development community. Plenty of publishers are cross-platform but it’s not universal and Sony have gained a significant roster of exclusives including those new IPs without needing to actually invest internally (and there certainly has been some churn at Sony and the loss of previously internal talent and teams which needed to be replaced). I wonder if Sony have been quietly building up in the background for more late 2018 into 2019 and even 2020 titles we know nothing about yet.


I wasn’t even thinking of Hellblade… I was thinking more along the lines of Naughty Dog and Guerrilla Games. Some people thought they’d be stuck making Crash Bandicoot and Killzone games for all eternity when Sony bought them, but they managed to shift gears and make new IPs that brought a lot of value to their platforms (Uncharted series, Last of Us and most recently Horizon Zero Dawn).

On the other hand, look at Gears and Halo… who even makes them? Where’s Bungie and Epic in this picture? Who’s Playground Games and why are they making Forza? There may be perfectly explainable lineage in all these cases but that’s not the impression I get as an outsider looking in.

edit: I was using Naughty Dog and Guerrilla as examples, but obviously they’re not the only ones - think of any PS4 exclusive, and chances are it’s made by a studio owned by Sony, or funded and published by Sony. They don’t luck into gaining new IPs or exclusive content without investing heavily in it.


Hellblade is a self-published indie game from NInja Theory. Sony maybe did some marketing stuff for it, but that’s it. Ninja Theory was pretty upfront about their desire to make a retail quality game in all aspects, but at a fraction of the price due to making smart development decisions.