Troy Baker, famed voice actor, and former XBOX 360 spokesperson, recently announced the launch of his game streaming service called XBOX Game Pass. For a monthly fee, gamers would be able to access a library of games that would last for the entire lifetime of the service. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t work out, and the service failed to catch on. As it turns out, gamers were more interested in the newest games, rather than the classics.
In 2013, Troy Baker, who was a XBOX community manager at the time, had the idea of launching XBOX Game Pass. In a tweet, he said: “I’m trying to get #xboxgamepass made. What games would you want to see on there from the first day?” Not everyone was on board with the idea, and the tweet got a mix of support, criticizm, and jokes. So, was XBOX Game Pass a bad idea?
But this led to a broader conversation that became a hot topic in the industry after it was announced that the XBOX One will use a DRM system that will not allow already released games to be distributed or played on multiple devices. I myself was strongly opposed to the proposed protection because of the obstacles it would have created, which would have been absolutely terrible for both traders and players. Baker quickly dismissed these concerns, however. Returning to video games, Baker asked one of the most controversial questions discussed by fans of this wonderful medium: Aren’t the games too expensive? A harmonious yes echoed through the audience, with one exception. Speaking from his personal experiences with various development teams – most notably ATLUS, which was in a financial hole at the time, with its parent company Index (now iXIT) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but being rescued just a month before talks with SEGA began – and working closely with projects from major first-party studios, Baker talked about the amount of money development studios and their partners receive, with each unit sold at a recommended retail price of $60. 55% (gross) of total revenue goes back to the development studio and publishers, which in turn is split between unpaid residual costs and planned campaign material. Troy went on to convince his audience that studios struggle to make money and barely manage to provide hours of entertainment unmatched in competing industries like Hollywood. However, this particular moment, eight years later, I found utterly ironic. Baker introduced the audience to the revolutionary idea of free subscription games, where players can pay each month for access to brand new games. There was a loud no in response, and a puzzled Baker asked: Why? The game designer in the audience explained that a tight budget outside of subscriptions will not be enough for a large team in the near future. My God, how things have changed. Not only has XBOX Game Pass become a high-profile statement in the gaming industry, but the gaming community and hardware opponents are now pushing for other platforms to adapt the on-demand structure, which pays you a minimum monthly fee to access AAA games after their initial release. Baker reached the cape nearly half a decade before XBOX announced the service. See also. It also offered an episodic structure that later made the Hitman reboot a success and one of the highlights of 2016. The idea was that the player would pay for the service, which would eventually give developers the space to continue releasing content like Walking Dead or Life is Strange, but on a prepaid model. We also talked about investing in a similar model, DLC. Even back then, downloadable content was a miss, and audiences felt that publishers were delaying content to bring in more money – the hypothetical Big Mac meme without cheese and sauce that was discussed on the internet at the time led to a movement that was considered offensive, but today DLC packs are commonplace in beloved games, and fans are waiting for them. But again, Baker equated this with an episodic structure, so that supply could respond more quickly to demand. You know why there’s DLC? Baker asked: So you’re not going to sell the CD. At that moment, you could hear people in the crowd agreeing with this idea. It’s funny, because at the time I had just been hired at JB HIFI as head of the gaming department, and every time I had to pick up an item to pay for it, that particular moment from Troy’s speech would play randomly in my head. My manager has always said that used games are the bread and butter of this department. Why? Because the impact on the headlines is insane. Word of mouth, Baker says, is the whole ecosystem that all the big retailers capitalize on: a game trades for $10 and GameStop sells it for $50; the net profit, the money doesn’t go to the developers or publishers, it goes to the companies that resell the products. You gotta love capitalism.