As Xbox hardware sales continue to dwindle, Microsoft is strategically shoring up its Xbox Game Pass market saturation for when Xbox Live (and Game Pass) makes its way to additional platforms.
Minecraft is joining its first-party brethren on Xbox Game Pass, beginning on April 4. The Minecraft community spans a multitude of platforms, including Xbox One, mobile (iOS/Android), Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4. The vast majority of these platforms are cross-play compatible, which means that players can join a server from any device to any other other device, minus PlayStation 4.
Much like every other first-party Xbox game, Minecraft will become a permanent Game Pass feature, according to Ben Decker, Head of Gaming Services at Microsoft.
"One of the biggest requests we've had from our members is to bring Minecraft to the catalog, that's why we're so excited that we'll be adding to that family-friendly offering in a big way," Decker said to GameDaily. "We really think that this is going to be a big win, both for Minecraft and for Game Pass. Minecraft continues to add new players to its community, and Xbox Game Pass is going to welcome a game that has over 91 million monthly active players."
Part of why Minecraft is coming to Xbox Game Pass is to reduce friction for new players. "We want to have as few barriers entry for the game as possible," Kasia Swica, Business Manager at Minecraft, explained. "Xbox Game Pass is going to help us reach even more people and bring more players into our community. This community remains one of the most active and passionate in gaming. Like Ben mentioned, we have players of all ages to virtually every country in the world since it's launched in 2009. Those players joining from Xbox Game Pass are going to join the cyber community and be able to play with their friends on over 20 unique platforms, including Windows 10, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and mobile."
Minecraft'ssignificant player-base across a multitude of platforms has the opportunity to trickle down to the other games in Xbox Games Pass. Decker commented that Xbox Game Pass players who sat down and played Human Fall Flat had never played a puzzle game on Xbox before. As a result, they were much more likely to play other puzzle games. This could mean that players who hadn't considered Terraria, currently included in Xbox Game Pass' library, might be able to make the leap over to a different kind of building game.
"One of the things we set out to do with Game Pass was … reducing the friction to exploring [and] discovering new games, new genres, new titles," Decker said. "We've been exceptionally thrilled with those results. After a member enters Game Pass, the average number of titles they play goes up by 40 percent. What's potentially even more impressive than that, the number of genres that they play goes up by 30 percent.
"On average we see a six times increase in usage for all the games that go into Xbox Game Pass. So, on average, a game goes into Game Pass, number of people playing it goes up by about six times. That varies, depending on the size and recency of the title, obviously, but that's the average across the board."
Minecraft's strength is in its diversity across platforms and players. As Xbox seeks to shore up its family-friendly offerings, which make up 25 percent of the Xbox Game Pass library according to Decker, Minecraft on Xbox Game Pass provides a multi-pronged opportunity for Microsoft. Minecraft's long-established community, whose average player age is, could bring an influx of players looking to broaden their horizons.
"We think that Game Pass is going to add some new members to Minecraft and Minecraft is going to encourage a lot of people to take a look at the service and maybe try it for the first time, which we're really excited about," Decker said.
"Plus, Xbox Game Pass players will have the ability to purchase an ever-expanding array of content from our community [via] the in-game marketplace," Swica added. "Last year we announced that we have 77 partners for the Minecraft marketplace with more than 13 million purchases across their creations."
By broadening its player base even further, Microsoft is ensuring cross-platform saturation for Xbox Game Pass if (or, at this stage, when) Xbox Live makes its way to other platforms. Microsoft doesn't seem particularly concerned with dwindling Xbox hardware sales, as per last quarter's earnings report. The company saw a 24 percent increase in revenue from cloud-based services, which includes Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft is playing the long game with its largest (and best-selling) IP and Xbox Game Pass, clearly.
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