Microsoft Game Pass Tops 25 Million Subscribers

Gaming
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As if Microsoft hasn’t made enough headlines this week, it’s marked a new occasion by reaching 25 million subscribers on its Game Pass subscription service. 

The latest subscriber count was found buried in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing marking the end of the fiscal year. According to the 97-page document, Game Pass subscriptions have made their way into Microsoft’s list of top priorities, joining the ranks of LinkedIn, Surface sales revenue, and revenue produced by Azure, Microsoft’s suite of commercial cloud services.

Game Pass’s impressive subscriber count may appear to constitute a victory, but it’s been deemed a blunder, at least as it relates to its subscription rates. In June 2020, Microsoft set a 48 percent Game Pass growth target, hoping a slew of new titles would draw gamers to its sales goals. (The company’s executives had only just started paying real attention to Game Pass numbers in 2019, when they decided the service’s success would impact their stock payout plans.) But by June 2021, its subscriber base had “only” expanded by 37 percent year-over-year: a failure, despite what some might otherwise consider a decently healthy growth rate. Microsoft had just hit 18 million subscribers a few months prior.   

Microsoft had hoped its acquisition of ZeniMax Media (which itself owned Bethesda Game Studios, Arcane Studios, and other game developers) in early 2021 would boost its Game Pass subscriber count. The acquisition allowed Microsoft to add 20 iconic ZeniMax titles to Game Pass, including the Elder Scrolls series, Fallout, and Wolfenstein, among others and in addition to titles developed by Microsoft itself. But the new additions’ impact on total Game Pass subscriptions didn’t live up to the hype, and Microsoft has recommitted to growing the service’s customer base this year. 

Of course, the news of Game Pass’s notable subscription count is easily overshadowed by that of Microsoft’s bid for Activision Blizzard just yesterday. Many think the absorption of Blizzard may result in even further Game Pass growth, however, once the disgraced developer’s titles begin hitting the Xbox’s subscription service. The nearly $70 billion deal could quickly result in World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Overwatch, and other long-term hits being added to Game Pass, further enticing (or keeping) customers who were previously on the fence about paying $10 to $15 a month for the service. 

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