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Xbox chief suggests game subscription services help devs tell better stories

"The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it's because of the business model," Phil Spencer tells The Guardian. "I hope as an industry we can think about the same."
"The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it’s because of the business model. I hope as an industry we can think about the same."

- Xbox chief Phil Spencer, chatting with The Guardian about the upide of a future with more game subscription services.

Earlier this year Microsoft announced a new game subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, that aims to give subscribers free access to a library of ~100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games for $10 a month. 

Now, in a recent conversation with The Guardian, Xbox chief Phil Spencer expresses hope that such subscription services will become more popular in the game industry going forward -- and that they will give developers more room to make narrative-focused games.

"I’ve looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there’s this subscription model," Spencer said. "Shannon Loftis [Microsoft Studios exec] and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn’t have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."

While this is hardly a new idea (the game industry has a long history of games being released episodically, for better and for worse) it's interesting to see the Xbox chief draw a clear line here between video games and Netflix.

"The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it’s because of the business model," Spencer continued. "I hope as an industry we can think about the same. [Subscription services] might spur new story-based games coming to market because there’s a new business model to help support their monetization." 

Of course, we should also point out that Xbox services like Game Pass are key to Microsoft making money from its Xbox business. 

"You don't make any money on the hardware, it's making money on the games, making money on the service," he told Gamasutra earlier this year, when discussing the future of the Xbox business. "Somebody is going to buy games, they're going to subscribe to Live, they might go subscribe to Game Pass and other things. And that's how you kind of run a business around the console space." 

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