In the blog post, head of Xbox Phil Spencer said the numbers reflect a user base spread across 41 countries. In March, multiplayer gaming among those 10 million members increased by 130 percent, with 23 million new friendship connections over the Xbox Live service, a 70-percent growth from the previous month. Microsoft believes these numbers were fueled by the stay-at-home pandemic reality, turning the gaming service into something of a communications hub.
“For many of us, the current global health situation has made it more difficult to spend time with friends, family, and the people we care about most,” Spencer wrote. “We are heartened to see many people using games to be entertained, to find inspiration, and to strengthen social connections through shared adventures.”
The new Xbox Series X console, which is still slated to release in time for the holidays, is being designed with an eye for compatibility with previous Xbox consoles and titles. More than any other console, the Xbox has been the best when it comes to bringing in and updating old titles for new technology.
Game Pass also boasts a significant feature: Xbox’s biggest exclusive games will be immediately available to download at no additional cost, besides the monthly subscription price of $10 at most. The Xbox One has famously struggled to release exclusives on par with the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s Switch. But the next Halo game, Infinite, looms large in the distance for 2020. Once that drops, Game Pass subscribership could enjoy another surge.
Game Pass serves to widen the audiences for various game genres, said Ben Decker, head of game services marketing at Microsoft, reducing the barrier for consumers facing new-game prices that usually run between $50-$60 for major titles. More than 90 percent of its members said they tried new genres they otherwise wouldn’t have touched. Xbox Live has always allowed users to share their library and online passes to another console, which might explain why the service had 90 million active users.
That ability to enjoy games outside of a home console or PC will be augmented by Microsoft’s Project xCloud, a still-in-testing cloud gaming service that allows subscribers to play any title in their game library on a device like a smartphone or tablet, further spreading Microsoft’s potential footprint.
“I think with Project xCloud, we’re going to start to break down those barriers between devices,” Decker said.