Microsoft unveils new titles as Xbox Game Pass gathers momentum

(Bloomberg) – During an eye-catching 90-minute presentation packed with game trailers, Microsoft Corp. Dozens of new titles for its Xbox Game Pass subscription service, including several from the big publishers it’s bought in recent years.

Sunday’s presentation in Los Angeles began and ended with two big games coming next year from publisher Bethesda, which Microsoft bought in 2020: Redfall, a first-person shooter in which players fight vampires, and Starfield, an RPG that plays in space. Microsoft also spotlighted Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Overwatch 2, which will enter Early Access in October with free competitive multiplayer, and Diablo IV, due out in 2023.

All four games will be available on Xbox Game Pass, the core of Microsoft’s gaming strategy and the reason the company paid $7.5 billion for Bethesda and is buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. Game Pass allows users to pay monthly for unlimited access to a growing list of hundreds of games. Microsoft has bet big on Game Pass, which as of January has 25 million subscribers paying at least $10 a month.

Rather than engage in a hardware duel with rivals Sony Group Corp., the maker of PlayStation, and Nintendo Co., Microsoft is working to create the Netflix of games – and by many reports is already on the verge of doing so. Almost every game in the showcase ended with a Chiron that said “Play it Day One with Game Pass,” a constant reminder of the company’s strategy.

Microsoft’s showcase is an annual tradition, usually held during the E3 trade show, where the biggest video game publishers gather to showcase new and upcoming projects. But E3 was canceled this year, and other publishers like Ubisoft and Sony skipped their annual presentations, giving Microsoft the solo spot on Sunday.

During the presentation, Microsoft also announced a new Minecraft spinoff called Minecraft Legends, as well as several colorful indie titles like an action game called Ravenlok and an adventure game called Cocoon, all of which will be available on Game Pass on the day of their launch.

A highlight of the show was Pentiment, a medieval narrative-adventure game with a unique art style from Microsoft-owned developer Obsidian Entertainment Inc. While the game lacks combat and is likely to have niche appeal, it could sit well with Game Pass, where experimental games fill out the lineup without necessarily having to sell blockbuster numbers.

Microsoft has also positioned Game Pass as a service that will be beneficial for otherwise free games. During the show, Riot Games Inc. said it would be working with Xbox to give Game Pass subscribers access to paid content for its games, including League of Legends and Valorant. Everyone who subscribes to Game Pass gets free access to all of the heroes in these games, which are usually sold separately.

©2022 Bloomberg LP

Leave a Comment