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Xbox considering free (with ads) Game Pass tier

The future of Game Pass may see players pay for the service with ad viewership instead of a monthly fee.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

December 12, 2023

2 Min Read
Various Xbox-brand characters in a promotional image for Xbox Game Pass.
Image via Microsoft.

According to Tweaktown, part of Xbox's plans to grow out its Game Pass service in different regions of the world may involve implementing ads. 

At the recent Wells Fargo TMT Summit, CFO Tim Stuart revealed Microsoft was considering ways to get its service to players in developing regions. Citing countries like Africa or India that aren't "console-first," he speculated that it could be possible to offer the service and xCloud streaming at no cost in exchange for some ad views.

"You can say, 'hey, do you want to watch 30 seconds of an ad and then get two hours of game streaming?'" explained Stuart. "We have xCloud, so you can subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate and you can stream hundreds of games to really any endpoint that has a browser experience."

Stuart went on to note that half of Africa's population is 23 or younger, which grants them enough disposable income to potentially make a game subscription service worth investing in. The aforementioned ad model would allow Game Pass to reach "millions and millions of [players] we never would've been able to address there."

The potential future of ads and video games colliding

In recent weeks, Stuart talked about ideas Microsoft has for Game Pass expansion. Bringing it to other consoles apparently isn't as part of those plans as originally believed, but the company is clearly spending money to bring games (and by extension, players) over to the service. 

Back in 2020, then-marketing GM Aaron Greenberg called word of mouth "the most powerful marketing" for Game Pass. That could still apply here, if done correctly to encourage those unable to afford a monthly (or annual) subscription to the service.

Weeks ago, Ubisoft drew ire when players were hit with Black Friday ads for Assassin's Creed games while bringing up the in-game map. Microsoft caught similar fire for featuring pop-up ads for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III (2023) when players first booted up their Xbox consoles. 

Though the Ubisoft one was attributed to a backend error, they both provide an idea of what in-game ads could look like. And if those aren't clear enough, there's always looking at how YouTube and Hulu insert ads into videos on their respective services. 

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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