Recently, Sony held a Corporate Strategy Meeting and teased the PlayStation 5 lineup. During the conference, Sony head Kenichiro Yoshida revealed that PlayStation Now (PS Now) passed 2.2 million subscribers. While this is quite the feat for a cloud game streaming service, the figure is around five times less than the current 10 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers.
PS Now and Xbox Game Pass cater to two different crowds, but both are becoming increasingly similar. A few months ago, Sony allowed users to download PS Now titles directly onto their consoles. On the other hand, Microsoft announced that Project xCloud game streaming access was going to be part of Xbox Game Pass. This means that there is some overlap already, with even more similarities coming later this year.
One of the main reasons Xbox Game Pass is so much more popular is because Microsoft adds Xbox One console exclusives to the service at launch. Xbox Series X console exclusives will continue this tradition. This means that gamers don't need to spend $60 or more purchasing titles, and can test many games out – like Halo Infinite, Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, and more in the future – without spending anything other than the subscription cost. Sony adds titles like God of War months later, and they leave the service shortly afterward.
Xbox Game Pass also includes many new indie games, or untested franchises, so subscribers can try them out without risking their hard-earned cash. For example, one of the main reasons Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami are so popular on Xbox One right now is because they're available as part of Xbox Game Pass. It's unclear how the games would've performed if they were released for $30 to $60.
Xbox Game Pass also includes many new indie games and untested franchises.
Games like Golf With Your Friends and Two Point Hospital joined Xbox Game Pass at launch. Many gamers also subscribe to the service because they're granted access to many modern titles alongside their retail release. The cost of a monthly $10 subscription is less than paying $20 to $30 a piece. Plus, you can always cancel the subscription and reactivate it when you want to play a particular game.
Lastly, Grand Theft Auto V was a part of Xbox Game Pass for many months until it was replaced by the critically-acclaimed Red Dead Redemption 2. There are still millions of gamers out there who haven't played Rockstar Games' latest masterpiece so its addition was a great way to attract more subscribers. Xbox Game Pass has been more proactive about adding new AAA games, which Sony is also trying to do with experiences like Control on PS Now.
Xbox Game Pass had a $1 upgrade promotion many months ago, so that brought a lot of users in initially. However, even with the $1 promotion, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that the service had "millions of subscribers" back then. In my opinion, Xbox Game Pass's long-term success can be attributed to its content now because if gamers were disappointed with the service, many would've unsubscribed months ago.
Bundling Xbox Live Gold – that gives you the ability to play multiplayer games – with Xbox Game Pass in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is also a smart business decision. For just $15 a month, you gain access to Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass on Xbox One, and Xbox Game Pass on PC. It's a sound financial decision for gamers because they don't have to buy particular titles and they get the ability to enjoy multiplayer for a little more. This isn't even including the Games with Gold promotion that gives you four Xbox One and Xbox 360 games a month to keep.
Bundling Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass is a smart decision.
While it's not an accurate comparison at the moment, Xbox Game Pass has a significant head start when it comes to content and business models over PS Now. When Xbox Game Pass finally does get the ability to stream games through the cloud, it'll have a strong base that will see it as an added feature. The public perception right now is that Xbox Game Pass is the "Netflix for games," while PS Now is a cloud game streaming service along the lines of Google Stadia.
I think Microsoft's strategy to prioritize new content first is the right approach because even with over 200 games – compared to around 800 for PS Now – it has more subscribers. Gamers want new titles rather than those that have been out for almost 10 years. This strategy is paying off and Sony could learn a thing or two from it, even when it comes to marketing its service as a game subscription service instead of a cloud game streaming service.
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