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Although the Nintendo Switch is my most played system, I have a confession, dear readers. I also play a fair bit on the Xbox Series X, which I kind of pre-ordered in the distant time of 2020, and it has actually arrived. Sure enough the devil is knocking on the door demanding payment of my soul, but I’ll just keep playing and ignoring the noise.
Over on the sister site Pure Xbox, I am welcomed with open arms for a round gloriole (or something), but when I greet the people from Push Square, they give me the cold shoulder. I’m joking, of course – we’re all a happy family – but I sort of switched teams because for the past generations I’ve had a PS3 and PS4 that went with my Nintendo hardware.
There were two main reasons I switched to the Microsoft console. One was the fact that I realized that I hadn’t really enjoyed a Sony exclusive console since then Death strandingand it had basically become a MLB The Show Machine. I’m addicted to real baseball and am pursuing it on the Sony San Diego series, so I pondered over the two-year-old confirmation that it would be cross-platform and made a mistake that MLB would insist on next-generation machines becomes reality. Thankfully, I was right, but was then stunned when MLB – which clearly has full contractual release control on Xbox – made Sony look dumb and made a deal to put it on Game Pass. This is still a real curiosity, and I can only assume Sony got caught in a seedy deal and had no control over it.
But that brings me to reason two for switching sides: Xbox Game Pass. Honestly, when I lost interest in exclusive PlayStation games, switching to Xbox was the economically sound choice for me. I also like Phil Spencer’s general approach to gaming, and he’s made an extraordinary turn from the hubris of his predecessors. Game Pass is almost too good to be true, and at some point it will no doubt cost a dollar Netflix-style every six months. But hell, I’m going to take advantage of it while it’s going well, and if you “play” the subscription service in a number of different ways and even use Microsoft Reward Points to redeem free months, it’s a breeze.
Game Pass is currently outperforming its competitors as it continually offers entirely new games, including all major first-party titles (which admittedly will play a bigger role in the future than they do now), along with the usual mix of attractive older titles. It’s big on indie games too, and I love playing a number of indie games, even though my bank balance gives me a choice under normal circumstances. You don’t “own” the games, no, but nothing prevents you from finding a game through the service and then buying it anyway as an extra show of support. And, frankly, how much we “own” download purchases has been controversial since the Wii days if you actually read the Terms of Service – it’s best not to think too much about it.
In the publishing world, I’ve also seen firsthand the value of being selected for Game Pass for smaller businesses. It is definitely becoming a real destination for publishers and developers looking for financial stability and convenience. That is the key point; Many critics of the model argue that it harms India, but the members of the service politely point out that they are pretty happy when paid well and it sometimes increases sales on other platforms, while Xbox argues that Game Pass – Subscribers actually spend more on game purchases. I can tell from experience that visibility is hugely important for smaller games, and while Nintendo has laudable initiatives like Indie World, the eShop itself isn’t well designed from a UI standpoint. Sony’s store has similar problems. While Game Pass visibility can only be positive as it is a curated service.
Narita Boy is a stylish game (Image: Team17)
I’ve read many perspectives from publishers and developers on Game Pass, on these pages, and in excellent recent articles like this one on Eurogamer, and I can see the economy actually stacking up. As an example I have played these Narita boy, The gardens between, Spiritfarer, Cyber Shadow, The tourist and more about Game Pass, all the games I would otherwise have bought or considered on Switch. Sometimes I feel guilty for not making a sale to these developers – again, I have a limit to what I can spend on games – but then I remember the evidence that these companies are actually going to do well.
Interestingly, I probably took some of the money I would otherwise spend on new download games and thrown it on older titles on my trusty old Switch. That will be part of the argument that some with a subscription service will still be spending similar amounts of money on games, but will only play more games as a result. I enjoyed grabbing various eShop titles that were on my wish-list and wistfully asked myself to take the plunge.
It’s also interesting that while a lot of people are wrestling their hands over whether Sony will “take revenge” (beyond PS Now) with a similar service, I don’t see many asking that about Nintendo. Shall we be I’m not sure – for one thing, Nintendo is operating in its own bubble within the gaming industry and is currently on the rise selling a ridiculous number of systems. At this point, at least, there is little incentive for the company to change its approach. That’s not to say that this won’t change in the years to come, but right now it will likely get out of hand along with Nintendo Switch Online in its current form, albeit with the occasional additions (yes, I know everyone wants more retro System libraries). .
The eShop is also rocking quite well in terms of revenue, although the majority of the 30+ games released each week will have big problems. In its most recent quarterly results, Nintendo said download revenue was “256.0 billion yen (an increase of 104.9% year over year),” equivalent to approximately $ 2.35 billion. Even taking into account that download sales will be artificially inflated through 2020 due to world events, this is still a big old number.
For now, Nintendo is likely to be happy to continue its business norm of downloads, although it undoubtedly is closely monitoring trends and data. Microsoft, meanwhile, is ruffling its feathers and showing – possibly – that a subscription service would make sense for a large gaming company to support it. Time will tell, but these are interesting and indeed turbulent times in the world of downloadable games.
Let us know what you think of Game Pass through the polls and comments, and if you think Nintendo will take a similar approach at some point.