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Call of Duty on Game Pass can’t erase the damage Xbox has done

Call of Duty on Game Pass can’t erase the damage Xbox has done

After Microsoft completed its acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $75.4 billion toward the end of last year, the company is now preparing to introduce one of the publisher’s major games to its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that the 2024 installment of Call of Duty will be the first to premiere on Game Pass when it releases this autumn.

As per sources familiar with Microsoft’s strategies, the company is expected to unveil the inclusion of Call of Duty 2024 on Game Pass during its showcase on June 9th.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the significance of this decision for Xbox. Call of Duty ranks among the highest-selling video game franchises ever, surpassed only by Mario, Tetris, and Pokémon. Despite receiving poor reviews, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III from last year managed to become the second best-selling game of 2023, outperforming critically acclaimed titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and Mortal Kombat 1.

These games have a massive following, and now, for the first time, Game Pass subscribers will have access without the need to pay the upfront cost of $69.99.

Microsoft is taking a strategic gamble by choosing to forego millions of dollars in sales to enhance Game Pass membership. Microsoft highlighted that it achieved a milestone with the highest number of Game Pass subscriptions added in a single day ever, coinciding with the launch of Starfield last September. With the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 expected this fall, it’s anticipated to surpass this record.

The real question isn’t whether a fresh Call of Duty release will entice numerous gamers to join Game Pass; it undoubtedly will. Rather, the key inquiry lies in Microsoft’s strategy to retain these new subscribers, especially amidst the ongoing closure of various game studios.

Only recently, Microsoft shut down Arkane Austin (known for Redfall), Tango Gameworks (responsible for Hi-Fi Rush), and Alpha Dog Games (creators of Mighty Doom). Additionally, Roundhouse Studios was assimilated into ZeniMax Online Studios. This resulted in numerous developers, possibly in the dozens or even hundreds, losing their employment.

Microsoft’s acquisition spree hasn’t yielded a wave of outstanding exclusives for the Xbox. Instead, it has resulted in a slow and inconsistent release of games, marked by significant, widespread job cuts. Tango Gameworks, for example, produced one of the standout games of 2023, only to face closure, leaving its employees searching for new opportunities. Despite these challenges, Microsoft expects consumers to invest a portion of their income in its gaming subscription service every month simply because they can access Call of Duty for $16.99/month instead of paying $70 upfront.

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The significance of Game Pass extends well beyond any individual game, series, or album, akin to the value proposition of services like Netflix or Spotify. While you might initially subscribe to access specific content like Squid Game season 2 or the latest Billie Eilish album, you remain engaged due to the wide array of offerings the service provides. However, the question arises: How appealing can Game Pass remain when many of the developers responsible for its content are currently unemployed and seeking new opportunities?

Using Call of Duty as a promotional tool is a sensible approach, but the Xbox brand has been severely damaged in recent weeks. Restoring trust with the gaming community will require more than just leveraging one of the most significant game franchises of all time.

 

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