Former Xbox Exec admits Game Pass makes him ‘nervous’

A collage of video game characters, including Master Chief and Lara Croft, stand close together and face left.

picture: Xbox/Microsoft

Ed Fries, the former Microsoft vice president for game publishing who launched the original Xbox, recently appeared on a podcast where he discussed some concerns he has about Xbox Game Pass. Fries said he’s “scared” the service could lead to a future where people stop buying games and instead choose to pay just a single monthly subscription fee to access everything. In his view, this is a similar scenario to Spotify and the move to streaming music, an outcome he says hasn’t boded well for musicians or record labels. And he fears the games industry may face a similar future.

Yesterday, fries appeared on the Xbox Expansion Podcast in an in-depth interview that touches on several topics, including gloriole, the manager’s involvement in the Xbox launch at Microsoft, the problems the console has faced in Japan, and current Xbox boss Phil Spencer. Towards the end of the interview, the moderator asked Fries if he would make any changes or tweaks to Xbox’s current strategy. Though he didn’t offer any specifics, he called Game Pass the only thing the company did that made him “nervous.”

“Game Pass scares me,” Fries explained. “Because there’s something similar called Spotify that was created for the music business. And uh…when Spotify took off, it destroyed the music business. I mean, it literally halved the music business’ annual sales and it made people just stop buying songs.”

“So we have to be careful not to create the same system in the games business. I mean, these markets are more fragile than you think,” Fries continued. “I saw the gaming industry destroy itself in the early 80’s. In the mid-1990s, I saw the educational software business self-destruct. So Game Pass makes me nervous. As a customer I love it. I love Spotify as a customer: I have all the songs I could ever want…as a customer it’s a great thing. But it’s not necessarily great for the industry.”

kotaku has reached out to Microsoft for comment.

Fries went on to claim that the rise of music streaming services like Spotify convinced Apple to stop selling songs because, in his words, “nobody is buying them anymore.”

However, as reported by VGC, some of the former Xbox exec’s claims are disputed by people in the music industry. A statistic used to counter Fries’ claim that the industry was halved following the rise of streaming was that the global recording industry was bringing in about $15 billion in revenue when Spotify launched in 2011. In 2021, a decade after Spotify helped popularize streaming music, the industry reported $25.9 billion in revenue.

However, while the industry as a whole has continued to grow, individual artists and smaller bands have increased reported earning very little from streaming services since most of the most popular ones only pay a fraction of a cent per stream.

It should also be noted that while Apple has Made changes to iTunes and its digital stores still let you Buy songs and albums.

While some of Fries’ claims are debatable, it’s not as if Game Pass actually changed the industry. With over 25 million subscribers, Game Pass has become a major focus for Xbox and its boss Phil Spencer, which the company continues to bring big games and popular indie titles every month for service. Game Pass has been widely embraced by fans because it allows people with less money to play more games than ever before. Sony even seems to be Change to its longstanding PlayStation Plus service It’s meant to be more like Game Pass, adding more tiers offering larger libraries of new and old games, similar to Microsoft’s offerings.

While Game Pass has certainly changed the way people buy and play games, that’s not all good news, especially for smaller developers.

indie studio The Game Bakers spoke to them recently waypoint about the studio’s decision not to release a new update for fury on Xbox because it wasn’t selling well on the platform. According to the developers, on Xbox it is becoming increasingly important for smaller games to launch via Game Pass, otherwise there is a risk of being left behind. And even if you release your indie game on Game Pass like the studio did with 2021 oasisit is not a guarantee that it will result in increased sales or profits.

A similar situation occurred in Square Enix’s AAA looter shooter. pioneer, who don’t have to make a profit yet a year after launching on Microsoft’s subscription service.

Continue reading: After years of hype, Xbox Game Pass Burnout is here

It seems reasonable to imagine that as Xbox Game Pass continues to grow and more games are added at a faster rate, it could become even more difficult to stand out from the crowd and be successful with the service. And if Revision of Sony’s PS Plus helps attract more subscribers, there’s a good chance these two big companies, as well as newcomers wanting a piece of the pie, will continue to expand the reach of game subscription services, something Fries is also concerned about.

For now, Game Pass is still fairly small compared to Spotify, and most games are still released across multiple platforms rather than solely as part of a subscription service, a fact Fries confirmed during the podcast.

“The percentage of all games on Game Pass is still tiny, and there are a lot of games,” Fries admitted, “200 games come out on Steam every week, and more than that come out on mobile, iOS, and Android.”

“Well, you know, it’s something I’m worried about going forward. But it’s something I’m concerned about.” Former Xbox Exec admits Game Pass makes him ‘nervous’

Curtis Crabtree

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