A week ago Microsoft announced an upgrade to Xbox Game Pass, revealing that all first-party releases would be available to play on launch day as part of the subscription service. For $10 a month, players will get access to Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Forza Horizon 4, Halo 6 and more. It sounds like a good deal, but not for brick and mortar retailers, who are now taking a stand and refusing to stock Xbox consoles and games. Microsoft cuts out retail, retail cuts out Microsoft.
First, it was Austrian store Gameware which stopped selling Xbox’s last Thursday, saying Microsoft consoles “bring zero profit and only expenditure if Microsoft alone then wants to profit off of the sales of software. If you want to do business alone, you should do the work alone."
It sounds petty but it really isn’t. Indie game stores are constantly on the cliff-edge as a result of the shift to digital stores, and while the eventual shift to all-digital seems somewhat inevitable, you can be sure retail stores are going to try and fight it every step of the way.
Gameware isn’t alone though, and now a number of UK independent game trailers have told GamesIndustry.biz that they too aren’t playing to stock Xbox products anymore. "Essentially, it's made our Xbox business worthless overnight," Extreme Gamez’ Stuart Benson told GI.biz.
There are plenty more hopping on board with the anti-Microsoft initiative too, raising an interesting conundrum for Microsoft. For now, the impact may be tiny, but if it the big retailers start to take notice then it could begin to hurt Microsoft’s bottom line. Street presence means a lot to the sales of consoles, and if they’re not in stores they may as well be invisible to the average consumer who’s not tuned into the games industry.
The big question now is, can the Xbox brand survive without a retail presence? Does the Xbox Game Pass do more harm than good? What are your thoughts?