Home System concept Xbox Game Pass was almost a complete disaster

Xbox Game Pass was almost a complete disaster

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Xbox Game Pass is often touted as one of the best deals when it comes to gaming. And if you own an Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One, or gaming PC, the subscription service that lets you download and fully play its game library is almost too good to be left out.

But this was not always the case. As GQ reports, the Xbox Game Pass could have turned in a completely different direction, and it’s not that great. The concept of the service actually dates back to 2013, the dawn of the Xbox One, and was originally supposed to focus on rentals.

Rentals didn’t last long as a concept, however, as the rise of services like Spotify and Netflix seemed to indicate to Microsoft that a subscription model would have been better than a rental system.

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox Game Ecosystem Manager Sarah Bond explained that even the subscription model for Xbox Game Pass wasn’t well received at first: “They were like, ‘No way, [Game Pass] will devalue the games. ‘”

And as an untested concept at the time, that’s not an unreasonable opinion to have. Of course, Game Pass made its debut with the launch of Sea of ​​Thieves which, after spending some time finding its seafaring feet, has since registered over 25 million players.

Likewise, many are drawn to Xbox Game Pass releases, even today, with the recently launched Forza Horizon 5 having already drawn 6 million players in its first week.


Analysis: rentals would have sunk Game Pass

We couldn’t be happier that Microsoft had switched to the subscription model we know for Xbox Game Pass, as it might not even exist today if the company sticks to its guns with a rental service. If it did, the service would likely have bitten the dust like Blockbuster Video, or fallen into obscurity the same way LoveFilm did. Anyone remember LoveFilm?

It’s also worth noting that the king of streaming Netflix also started out as a DVD rental service. The business didn’t grow exponentially until it switched to its current subscription model. As such, it’s likely that Microsoft saw the seas change at the time and decided to move away from the declining rental format.

Not only are rentals something of an outdated concept in the entertainment space, they just don’t work for gaming at all. And of course, some apps still offer a digital rental option, like Prime Video, but that’s a last resort when streaming that movie or show just isn’t an option.

As for the games, imagine arriving at the end of your rental time just before facing the final boss. Your character draws his sword, the Great Orchestra kicks in, and all of a sudden you get a pop-up prompting you to “add more game time to keep playing!” This would completely spoil the moment and instantly disintegrate any immersion you would have otherwise had.

EA Play’s 10-hour trials, available for download through the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription level, are probably the closest thing to servicing a rental system. But in this case, it’s still part of your monthly subscription fee and is available to play at no additional cost. These are also for very recent releases like FIFA 22 and Battlefield 2042, so it’s understandable that EA is making them available in a more limited capacity.


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