It seems we are quickly entering the age of streaming services, with services like Netflix and Spotify offering their users a wide variety of movies, television dramas, and music to choose from, with the added caveat of a monthly subscription.

Now it seems that gaming giants such as Sony, with its PS Now services, and Apple are slowly trying to take a step into streaming games on their platforms with varying levels of success.

The inarguable leader of the streaming space for games has to be Xbox. Microsoft has been offering players the Xbox Game Pass, a monthly subscription service which cost US$11/month and gives players access to a library of more than 100 games.

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The library offers both old and new games, and allows players to download the games straight to their consoles instead of streaming it over the internet to allow for full fidelity.

This business model has been a clear success for Microsoft and players also stand to gain from it, but according to Microsoft, their goal with the Game Pass is not to replace the model of purchasing and owning games, yet.

Instead, their wish for the Game Pass is to be an additional pillar for gamers, a way for them to try out games of another genre or franchise they would otherwise not have played.

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Microsoft’s Head of Game Planning, Matt Percy states that player’s game time generally increases by 20 per cent after purchasing the Game Pass and the number of different games they play goes up by 40 per cent.

“People are drawn to the biggest brands and the stuff that they know. But with Game Pass we’re really giving them a wider taste and getting people to follow or look at a wide variety of franchises. People might come for Halo but then discover they love Ashen. That’s a really good thing for us as a platform,” Percy explains.

It also turns out that the Game Pass is also beneficial for game-makers, though most might scratch their head at such a statement. While it seems that game-makers might be making a loss, with their profits being only a slice of the subscription fee players pay for the Game Pass, it is, in fact, introducing their game to a much wider market.

February’s game lineup for the Xbox Game Pass includes the newly released Crackdown 3, the recent Shadow of the Tomb Raider and a collection of older Batman Arkham games.

Percy gave an example with the physics-based puzzle game Humans Fall Flat, which was a very popular PC game but many thought might not be as popular on the console. To date, the game has been played for more than three million hours and 40% of those players have never played a puzzle game on the console before.

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Despite all the positives for a game streaming service, Tim Biggs from The Sydney Morning Herald acknowledges that there are potential issues to consider in the future when subscription gaming catalogues become the norm.

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For now, Microsoft maintains that their Game Pass is strictly “additive” to their game store but Netflix said the same thing for their streaming service in relation to their DVD rental business. What happens when players decide that they would rather strictly stick to the streaming services and the games offered in that catalogue then?

“It’s going to be a double-edged sword, especially for smaller indies that haven’t necessarily proved themselves… and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the different platforms tackle the same problems,” Derek Bradley, CEO of A44, the studio behind the open-world roleplaying game Ashen, says.


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