Game pass

Xbox Game Pass on PlayStation: win-win or lose-lose?

With Microsoft’s plans for gaming world domination in full swing after their nearly $70 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard, it’s got many people thinking about the company’s next steps, though some are seemingly unthinkable.

A common refrain from Microsoft is that they just want people to play games in as many places as possible, and they don’t care where, through Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming. So that means real Xboxes, PCs, anything with a web browser, tablets, and phones.

But does that mean PlayStations?

GamesBeat’s Jeff Grubb argued that this decision seemed “obvious” the other day:

It sounds wild, but is it plausible? It’s not the first time this has happened, but it’s still very, very difficult to understand. I can to see the case for it on both sides, but I can also see very significant challenges against it.

The win-win scenario:

Microsoft: Gets Xbox Game Pass on over 100 million PlayStation 4s and 5s, and dramatically expands the reach of the service and Microsoft-owned titles. Indeed, nothing else can match the reach of his subscription at this point.

sony: Probably gets a generous offer and part of the subscription revenue by accepting this. PlayStation becomes the “best” place to subscribe to Game Pass because you get all Game Pass titles (including old Microsoft exclusives), plus the ability to play all Sony exclusives on the same device.

But I think there’s a way of looking at it that’s more Lose-Lose:

Microsoft: Makes the actual Xbox more or less completely inert, because a Game Pass-accessible PlayStation is just… empirically better, given that all of Sony’s offerings are there as well. You just paid $80 billion for a bunch of developers and now all those games are going straight to your competitor’s platform. You expand the reach of Game Pass while potentially eliminating the entire need for an Xbox at all.

sony: It would be somewhat humiliating to acknowledge the dominance of Xbox Game Pass by accepting it into the PlayStation ecosystem, essentially abandoning the entire subscription service side of the business. This would cut into PS Plus and PS Now or any Spartacus combination that happens soon between those. Game Pass stifles your own subscription/streaming ambitions. It would also complicate sales of third-party games that are both for sale on PlayStation and offered for free on Game Pass.

My gut feeling is that it would be more of a benefit to Sony than to Microsoft, if that happened, and I think despite all the talk from Microsoft about wanting Game Pass and their titles everywhere, they can still draw the line at PlayStation. I could be wrong, and who knows, maybe they already made this offer and Sony shot them down for the reasons I mentioned, but ultimately it seems too complicated to work. And yet, I don’t see Sony creating a true Game Pass competitor anytime soon, either.

It’s a complicated question, and while it’s not unthinkable, I guess we’re not going to see it, and Sony and Nintendo will remain the two places you can not play games on Game Pass in the wider tech landscape.

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