I wrote an article a couple of weeks back when the story broke that ZeniMax Media (Read Here) and all its associated companies namely Bethesda Game Studios had been bought up by Microsoft and close to the end of that article. I mentioned Microsoft’s continued commitment to making the gaming market and medium as a whole more accessible to everyone but in particular those from low economic backgrounds and those with physical disabilities. The push to making gaming more accessible seems to many like the best way of expanding an already growing medium. Just last year gaming on mobile devices, consoles and personal computers was ranked as the most lucrative entertainment industry in the world raking in $145.7 billion last year alone compared to the box office at second place which “only” brought in $42.5 billion. At the time, CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella was quoted saying “gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends.” With the soon approaching release of both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 along with the lower social interactions which are most likely set to continue in most parts of the world for at least the continuation of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic the gaming market will surely only begin to attract more customers.
Previously the bar to entry in the gaming market used to be very high with new games only increasing in price with each console generation but as I mentioned at the beginning of the article Microsoft seems to have tapped into a market that is seemly only going to grow, those new to the gaming landscape who simply can’t afford to fork out $60 - $70 for every new game that releases. Within the last number years and with the dormancy of major exclusive titles such as the popular Halo franchise Microsoft have instead shifted their focus to subscription services starting initially with the Xbox Game Pass, a monthly subscription service that would offer the consumer a variety of first party titles and varying other titles Microsoft had struck a deal with for $9.99. At the time of release this service wasn’t really that desirable unless you had the extra revenue to spare as this amount would most likely be added on to your already $6.99 a month Xbox Live subscription which allowed you to play games online. However, the service over time kept growing, kept adding new titles and on occasion received first party titles on their day of launch. Most notably for this was the inclusion of the now extremely popular Xbox exclusive ‘Sea of Thieves’ which came to the service at the same time it released to the marketplace. Later down the line Microsoft announced the creation of a similar Game Pass service for PC users which was also priced at $9.99 a month but shocked everyone when they announced the release of a brand new subscription service Game Pass Ultimate which gave consumers access to all titles available on both the Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass along with Xbox Live for only $12.99 a month. This along with major titles making their way over to PC such as ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ saw a huge uptake in purchases and for anyone looking at getting into the gaming medium Xbox was the place to be. The Game Pass service has only continued to grow with the announcement that EA Play a similar subscription service for console and PC users which dealt exclusively with EA made titles would also be making its way to Game Pass at no extra cost. The inclusion of perks for customers has also proven to be a huge hit amongst consumers with Game Pass Ultimate users set to receive a free month’s subscription of Disney+ this November.
Outside of Game Pass, Microsoft has been continuing to open up the gaming market to as many people as possible with the announcement of the Xbox Series X and Series S. While the Series X retains what would be the normal market value of most new games’ consoles at $500 the company’s alternative, the Xbox Series S comes in at an extremely affordable $250. The console sacrifices a disk port and some minor technical aspects which the Series X has to support this low cost but even at that the value of money for the hardware on offer is fantastic. This paired with the already mentioned Game Pass Ultimate makes it so that an individual struggling to properly invest in the gaming scene can still experience the majority of games on offer as they launch.
When talking about making the gaming industry more accessible to people it’s not just monetary challenges that have to be overcome. Microsoft over the last number of years has been continually making strides in making the gaming market more accessible to people with physical disabilities. We need only look at the release of the company’s ‘Adaptive Controller’ which allows users to customise the hardware to function to their required needs with varying options for external devices to be connected such as switches, buttons, mounts and joysticks.
Whilst other company’s have attempted to replicate the success of Microsoft’s Game Pass service many have fallen short. Sony who initially were leading the way with a monthly subscription service in which you could stream games to your PlayStation have ultimately let this service fall to the wayside in favour of opting to prioritize console exclusives. It is clear without a shadow of a doubt those looking to gain an affordable entry to the gaming market, particularly coming up to the release of the next console generation whilst maybe not producing the number of high level exclusive titles as its opponents Microsoft and Xbox are the way to go.