I think it’s really easy to be blindsided by the obvious and incredibly explicit push MS are making to ensure Gamepass has an enviable amount of videogames propping it up.
Yes, that’s A Thing and it’s certainly not wrong to point at it. But, and it is a big but (sorry, I will never tire of that) it’s missing the big picture that MS are taking advantage of what I could politely describe as “a decade where we rebuilt the games industry, same as before, but with new kings”.
As a result of that, this generational shift brings the old generational shift problems of bigger companies being able to absorb the costs whilst mid tier (our new mid tier is quite a high bar to reach too) studios find themselves rightly concerned about their future.
In other words, we fixed nothing of use nor note in this structural department with our great rebuilding videogames but now with indie too! We’re kind of a bit back where we started from and ah, whoops. Combine that with larger companies having built up an absolutely enormous amount of money and someone was going to spot the opportunity to, well, “do a Disney” and hoard precious works whilst the conditions are favourable, whilst studios are especially vulnerable, and just with having access to enough money to pull off showy “ooh that’s a lot of money!!!” headlines to dazzle as they go.
So yeah, obviously in the same way Disney are using Disney+ (and whatever the other streaming thing for grown ups is that we don’t get in the UK) to have an incredible amount of control around how people are permitted to access the works, obviously that’s where Gamepass fits in. Like I say, not wrong to point at it. It matters.
Just alongside this, Microsoft are steadily acquiring an absolutely enormous amount of our videogame culture a la Disney and I’d be very, very surprised if Microsoft didn’t keep going.
There’s a heck of a lot of fighting for the ownership of the future of videogames (not The Future Of Videogames, that’s me and no-one wants to buy me). Microsoft’s play is to do the Disney. Epic’s is to smooth the way for Fortnite to become the metaverse platform, the same as Facebook’s play for VR – that’s a fight for where people exist. Google and Amazon will be fighting for who owns the access to the stuff that they don’t need to own (just like you don’t get to own the games too, hohoho etc…) and Valve are happy to hoover up as much of a bit of everything they can as normal.
Like, I’m proper excited for what this next tech leap is going to mean for what games can be built and how it’ll make a substantial difference to what can be made.
I’m also excited for games because I’ve seen what’s possible now at every level and for an old git like me who has grown up alongside the entire game industry, it’s magic to see what people are doing now. Especially, especially, especially outside of the big names. Itch.io is a treasure trove of wonder, every day.
Just, the future is also going to be an absolute shitshow.
Forget the console wars, they’re so PS3 and Xbox! Those days are gone and no-one of any importance in how the future will play out gives a flying squirrel about them. Why fight for selling all the boxes from a warehouse when a company can own a chunk of the future that lasts beyond any concept of a videogame generation, beyond the box, beyond the current fad of a subscription service.
In the case of MS, why not just buy all the things for keepsies? Whichever way the future pans out, the company gets a guaranteed slice of it. By owning so many prominent pieces of videogames culture, Microsoft gets a say in it too.
It’s going to be fun times ahead*, brace yourself.
*and I’m ignoring the rise of the right and climate disasters and a bloody pandemic offing us here, obv.