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Phil Spencer: "Our motivation is not to turn everybody into a subscriber"

The Xbox chief renewed his commitment to retail and said Game Pass is not here to "take options away from people"

During an episode of the Dropped Frames podcast, released yesterday, Xbox head Phil Spencer discussed Game Pass' business model and how developers perceive the subscription service.

He highlighted that some developers do have concerns about Game Pass and Xbox's long term goals, which led him to reiterate the platform holder's commitment to retail. This echoes Microsoft's recent announcement that it will share digital revenues with retailer GameStop on every Xbox it sells.

"I have conversations with a lot of these developers about what are our real long term goals. We get questions about: hey is this some kind of way [to] secure a bunch of players and then rack the price up to a new level? And I say: there's no plan for us to do anything like that. We like the value that Game Pass is today and from a business model it's completely sustainable the way it is. And I mean that."


Some of the questions developers have been asking him revolve around the value of titles on Game Pass in the long run, Spencer said, and whether or not that value diminishes if people aren't paying for a game.

"It's not like I've got a crystal ball and I can tell somebody what GamePass is going to look like in five years. What I can say is that our motivation is not to turn everybody into a subscriber. We think it's an option for people. We're not pulling our games out of retail. In fact, we've expanded. We put them on Steam. We have some games in the [Epic Games Store]. We are out there to give more options to go buy our games. We obviously support free-to-play games, which don't have a big role today in Game Pass."

Spencer also highlighted that Xbox sometimes receives pitches of games that can only work as part of the Game Pass model, which isn't necessarily what the platform holder is after by the sounds of it.

"What I've said for the longest time publicly -- and I believe this -- is I'm not creating Game Pass to take options away from people. Like you can go buy Tell Me Why at retail, you can buy Flight Sim at retail, and I think it's healthy that our industry has multiple business models.

"But I'll be honest there are developers and studios that are coming and building almost a specific model that works in a subscription, where it's hard to think about how that translates exactly to a retail model."

While Spencer said he wanted to "entertain those ideas" as they push the traditional boundaries of game distribution, he ultimately wants everything to be available everywhere. "It makes us think about how other people who don't want to subscribe would also get to play," he concluded on the topic.

Game Pass surpassed 15 million subscribers in September.

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Marie Dealessandri avatar
Marie Dealessandri: Marie joined in 2019 to head its Academy section. A journalist since 2012, she started in games in 2016. She can be found (rarely) tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate and the Dead Cells soundtrack. GI resident Moomins expert.
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