Xbox boss says a PlayStation Game Pass-like service is inevitable

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In context: As the video games industry continues to slip more toward digital sales, service provision will start taking the front seat. Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, says that Sony’s apparent decision to offer a packaged services platform similar to Xbox Game Pass is “an inevitability.” Spencer feels things have been moving in this direction for a while, and Sony is just reacting to market pressure.

Last month information leaked that Sony is prepped to consolidate its PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now subscriptions into a tiered service similar to Xbox Game Pass. Game Pass underwent a similar restructuring in 2020 when Microsoft combined Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Gold, and xCloud into a bundled package.

In a recent interview with IGN, Xbox head Phil Spencer indicated he was not surprised at Sony’s rumored service packaging and that he felt it was “the right answer.”

“I think the right answer is allowing your customers to play the games they wanna play, where they wanna play them and giving them choice about how they build their library,” explained Spencer. “So when I hear others doing things like Game Pass or coming to PC, it makes sense to me because I think that’s the right answer.”

Spencer also feels that Sony is simply following a path the industry pre-ordained. He says that it’s not a “validation” that what Xbox did was a smart decision, but more of an “inevitability;” that games as a service (GaaS) is just where the industry is gradually trending.

“I don’t really look at it as validation. I actually, when I’m talking to our teams, I talk about it as an inevitability,” said the Xbox boss. “So for us, we should continue to innovate, continue to compete, because the things that we’re doing might be advantages that we have in the market today, but they’re just based on us going first, not that we’ve created something that no one else can go create.”

Whether Sony’s move was inevitable or just an attempt to keep up with Xbox, the end result is the same—an expanded GaaS market that offers more options for where and how the consumer plays at the cost of not truly owning a game. According to what Spencer has to say about it, this is what the consumer at large wants, but plenty of players in the market don’t wish to move to a total GaaS system.

As we have seen, with the closures of digital stores, the potential to lose access to legitimately purchased digital products is there. Large corporate buyouts like Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax and, more recently, Activision Blizzard King proves how one company can use corporate buyout to change the landscape of an entire market. This potential is multiplied in a fully digital market where the consumer has no physical control of purchased media.

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