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Xbox may add "timed slices" to its subscription model

Demos may be one way Microsoft draws extra revenue from Xbox Game Pass subscribers.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

May 18, 2023

3 Min Read
Graphic of various first-party Xbox franchise characters.

Microsoft is reportedly looking at making timed slices (similar to demos) a part of its be among them. Talking to Rolling Stone UK, corporate VP Sarah Bond told the outlet that the company was internally "experimenting with other [business] models" that would be viable for PC and console games. 

Creating a diversity of models "enables developers to experiment and do what they like," continued Bond. As a hypothetical, she suggested in-game ads or "timed slices of games" may be potential avenues. However, she doesn't offer any further explanation as to what constitutes the latter. 

Timed slices normally give players a set number of hours (usually 1-3) to play through a game's early moments. Upon completion, they have the option of buying the full game and continuing from where they left off, and a version of this already exists inside of Xbox with EA games like Wild Hearts.

Adding timed demos to its service may put Xbox's wider subscription model in line with Sony's PlayStation Plus program. When the latter service was revamped last year, its Premium tier let users play timed trials of some first-party Sony titles. 

It doesn't appear that Microsoft has made a call on timed trials or in-game ads. But to Bond, the aim will always be for Xbox to ensure developers "have more economic success, and that they can continue to expand."

"Subscription is the latest option that we scaled: you have pay-to-play, then there was free-to-play, and then we introduced Game Pass."

Xbox Game Pass can never afford to be stale or predictable

Business flexibility has been part of Xbox's MO for years now. Game Pass has been the console's biggest boon, and helped first-party games such as 2023's breakout hit, Hi-Fi Rush from Tango Gameworks. That game was a surprise drop, and made more enticing by being on Game Pass, but Bond said it couldn't work for every game. 

"It was cool to see the success, we learned a lot from it," she said, "but it’s really about doing the right thing for the IP, for the team, for what we’re trying to achieve, and also the community. It's totally case-by-case."

Bond added that a game's business model "has an endemic link to the nature of the gameplay." As such, she feels that by establishing different models for games, developers may have the freedom to "create more immersive and creative experiences without having to fit into a mold."

Microsoft has committed itself to giving all of its first-party titles simultaneous Game Pass and retail releases. She added the service must also focus on having a diverse roster of titles to keep players subscribed. That's something that Xbox can't lose sight of, even as it's acquiring studios to help diversify said portfolio. 

"It’s not really about any one acquisition. It’s about the depth and breadth of the portfolio all up; from big triple-A [games], to indie titles to hidden gems. That’s actually what makes Game Pass really valuable.”

You can read Bond's full thoughts on Xbox Game Pass and Microsoft's plans to entice developers to its platform here.

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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