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Former Xbox Exec Concerned About Game Pass Model

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Ed Fries is worried about the potential impact of subscription-based gaming.

Since its initial inception, Xbox’s Game Pass subscription service has carved out a pretty steadfast niche for itself in the gaming industry. The rotating library of freely-playable games, including the occasional new release, has proven quite attractive for the cost-conscious public. It’s also inspired several other companies to try their own subscription models, such as Amazon, Google, and even individual game publishers like EA.

However, depending on who you ask, the success of Game Pass may not be so great for the industry at large. Ed Fries, the former Microsoft vice president of game publishing who oversaw the launch of the original Xbox, is concerned that subscription services could eventually overtake individual game purchases.

“Game Pass scares me,” Fries said in an interview on the Xbox Expansion podcast. “Because there’s a somewhat analogous thing called Spotify that was created for the music business. And uh… when Spotify took off it destroyed the music business. I mean, it literally cut the annual revenue of the music business in half and it’s made it so people just don’t buy songs anymore.”

“So we have to be careful we don’t create the same system in the game business. I mean, these markets are more fragile than people realize,” continued Fries. “I saw the games industry destroy itself in the early ‘80s. I saw the educational software business destroy itself in the mid-’90s. So Game Pass makes me nervous. As a customer, I love it. I love Spotify as a customer: I have all the songs I’d ever want… it’s a great deal as a customer. But it isn’t necessarily great for the industry.”

At the beginning of January 2022, Game Pass clocked in at over 25 million subscribers, and has likely picked up more since then. We’ll have to wait and see whether subscriptions become the norm for gaming commerce in the future.