27/09/2022 - NIMA POURTAHERI
Live service titles in Xbox Game Pass approach 10% of catalogue

In the years since its launch Xbox Game Pass Ultimate's catalogue has expanded substantially. Back in September 2020 294 titles were on offer and in August 2022 this number had increased to 550 – a noteworthy increase of 87% in two years as it has become more established. Alongside this growth, the number of live service titles - online games that are regularly updated and continually monetised - has also grown steadily.

Starting from September 2020 there were 17 live service games, making up under 6% of the Game Pass catalogue. These titles included those published by Bethesda Softworks (now owned by Microsoft), such as Fallout 76 and The Elder Scrolls Online, and the ever-popular Payday 2 (Digital Bros). Moving into 2021, with the inclusion of the EA Play catalogue into Xbox Game Pass, live service games jumped to 23 titles, but still under 6% of the service. These included Anthem and Star Wars Battlefront II. Through 2021 and 2022 there was a steady increase in the number of live service titles, with an average of one new title added per month. In August 2022 there were 46 live service games, approaching 10% of the catalogue, with the recent additions of FIFA 22 and MotoGP 22.

This increased share of live service games in catalogue signals a larger trend in the games industry of a move towards Games-as-a-Service or GaaS titles. Monetisation across the console market has progressively shifted from the larger single purchase of a title, towards monetising and spending in game. The growth of live service titles also reflects the importance of long-running games as engagement tools to fight against service churn. These titles are well suited to subscription services as the ongoing monetisation does not rely on simply replacing premium sales with subscription revenue. The biggest subscription services also offer a ready-made audience that delivers momentum to older games. Free-to-play (F2P) games are also increasingly relevant to subscription services as publishers offer in-game perks specific to subscribers to differentiate the offering. While the biggest subscription services represent marketing and user acquisition channels for F2P games, they also offer an additional revenue stream not normally accessed by these free games.  

As such, it is not a great surprise that live service games in subscription services are increasing, but the implications for developers and publishers making single-player or standalone games reflect a broader concern for the industry. Based on the amount of time people can spend playing these games and their general stickiness, there is a worry that other types of game will become less relevant to subscription gamers. However, the question remains: Are these trends significantly different to the change in general gaming habits seen on console platforms outside of these services? At present the mix appears relatively healthy, but Ampere will continue to track how live service titles grow within Xbox Game Pass and analyse how the catalogue changes impact usage over time.

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