Microsoft being in second (or last place depending on how you look at it) in the proverbial console wars has forced the company to think outside the [x]box. On one hand, Microsoft has doubled down on its marketing efforts with the creation of a new show, Inside Xbox, while also creating new products such as the Adaptive Xbox controller to stay in the media spotlight. On the other, Microsoft started laying the groundwork of shaking up the traditional landscape of the video game marketplace by offering services like Game Pass that shift purchasing games individually into a subscription service. Now, Microsoft seeks to further its new philosophy by creating a new subscription service that isn’t just for games, but rather, the whole Xbox ecosystem. The console, games, and the online passes are all wrapped into one monthly fee under the banner Xbox All Access.
Microsoft has been steadily marching forward with its new market philosophy for some time now, especially since the lack of exclusive titles have made the Xbox’s value proposition extremely problematic. Adjusting their way of thinking as to what an ‘Xbox Customer” looks like, expanding to nearly any game or aspect of a game that Microsoft has its hands on. This could include someone using the Microsoft store purchasing a game on their PC, a Minecraft player, or even someone who just watches streams via Mixer. All of these constitute as an Xbox Customer in Microsoft’s eyes. The goal has shifted from what was once being about console sales into any and all touchpoints that Microsoft has available in terms of games. The Xbox One is no longer the true sales goal, but rather, another introduction into the Microsoft’s newly defined Xbox ecosystem.
Offering an all-inclusive subscription service allows for multiple touch points in a single move. Consumers who opt to purchase it will get exposed to several different elements that have traditionally been seen as separate items, and thus, harder to show their value. Game Pass might seem like an enticing proposition, but if you already own PlayStation 4, you won’t be so inclined to take the leap due to having such a similar product and a high barrier to entry. However, now presenting it in an easily affordable package changes that formula, now you are no longer getting everything separate and at an increased cost, instead, you are getting a full-fledged introduction to the service at the price of an Xbox Live subscription and Game Pass.
Microsoft can’t hope to compete at this time in the console cycle with an array of exclusives being released. They simply won’t be available when they are needed most—now—instead, Microsoft is hoping to show the value of purchasing an Xbox One over another console by bundling everything together. A move like this aligns perfectly with where Microsoft has been focusing its efforts on the Xbox for some time now, the software. The Xbox One UI, abilities, functions, and cross-platform use is leagues above any of the competition, but it has been a constant uphill battle to show that this a true value because, in the gaming market, it’s secondary to actual games. These features are all fantastic, but they can’t replace the value of games in the gaming market because that is what the market wants first and foremost. Nobody will be won over by features alone, it’s the item that may push someone over the edge from one side to another, but it won’t be the item that dictates most of that choice. But, by combining it with a large array of games as part of the package, and reducing the overall cost, you now have a way to easily introduce someone to the console’s strengths coupled with the games people want.
This strength is what Microsoft is hoping to build off of and continually promote because it is what separates them and is their true advantage over others. Sony currently has the dominant position in the console market and Nintendo has its franchises that always serves to set them apart. For Microsoft, their new position focuses on two main items, cost and the Xbox ecosystem. The goal is to get people into the system for as low of a cost as affordable, and that once they get there, they will recognize the value and continue to purchase and support Microsoft. The subscription service is another tool Microsoft is adding to reach that goal. If the problem is actually purchasing the console, this provides an entry point. If it’s games at a value, that is also provided in this subscription.
While the introduction of this service will be on a much smaller scale than many of Microsoft’s other efforts (being offered only at Microsoft stores), it signals the path Microsoft is continuing to go down with the Xbox and that they are not backing down from it. They will continue to focus on games as a whole and as a service, rather than an individual purchase. For a while, one of the largest hurdles to this was the dedicated hardware needing to have this model succeed, but by including it in this new subscription service, Microsoft has finally removed that as a problem and can continue its goal of introducing gamers into its ever-evolving system of giving multiple different ways to consume games depending on preference that other consoles sorely lack.