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Call of Duty Set to Premiere on Microsoft Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft’s Strategic Shift: Call of Duty Joins Game Pass

In a groundbreaking move, Microsoft plans to alter its gaming sales strategy by releasing the next installment of the iconic “Call of Duty” franchise directly to its Game Pass subscription service. This significant change marks the biggest shift in Microsoft’s gaming division since its monumental $75 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

A New Era for Call of Duty

Historically, “Call of Duty” has been a massive success, generating over $30 billion in revenue with annual releases selling approximately 25 million copies at around $70 each. Traditionally, Activision, the game’s developer, favored the lucrative a la carte sales model. However, under Microsoft’s new strategy, the latest game will be available on Game Pass at launch, a subscription service costing between $9.99 and $16.99 per month.

Call of Duty Joins Microsoft Game Pass
Debuting in 2003, ‘Call of Duty’ has amassed over $30 billion in lifetime revenue. PHOTO: ANTONY JONES/GETTY IMAGES

Impact on Gaming and Subscription Models

The upcoming announcement at Microsoft’s annual Xbox showcase is expected to reveal this bold move. Despite the option for consumers to purchase the game outright, the shift to a subscription model could potentially reduce immediate revenue. However, Microsoft aims to attract new subscribers to Game Pass, fostering long-term revenue growth.

Game Pass, launched in 2017, has steadily grown in popularity, boasting 34 million subscribers as of early 2023, up from 25 million in 2022. By including “Call of Duty,” Microsoft hopes to replicate the success seen with “Starfield,” which drove a record number of new subscriptions in a single day upon its release on Game Pass.

Regulatory Concerns and Industry Reactions

The integration of “Call of Duty” into Game Pass was a focal point during regulatory reviews of Microsoft’s Activision acquisition. Regulators expressed concerns that Microsoft might withhold the popular franchise from rival platforms, potentially giving it an unfair advantage in the emerging cloud gaming market. Microsoft, however, pledged to maintain the availability of “Call of Duty” across different platforms.

Industry Skepticism and Strategic Risks

Despite the strategic move, some industry leaders remain skeptical about subscription-based models for new game releases. Bobby Kotick, the former CEO of Activision, voiced his concerns during a court hearing, arguing that subscription services could harm both the industry and players. Similarly, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, believes that while subscriptions may work for catalog games, they might not be suitable for new, high-profile releases.

Analysts also caution against the potential cannibalization of traditional game sales. Doug Creutz of TD Cowen expressed concerns that a shift to subscription models might negatively impact publishers’ value creation. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s decision to include “Call of Duty” in Game Pass signals a firm commitment to its subscription strategy.

The Economics of Game Pass

Adding “Call of Duty” to Game Pass is a calculated risk. Historically, major game releases like “Call of Duty” have been significant revenue drivers for game developers and publishers. By offering such a high-profile game on a subscription service, Microsoft may forgo some upfront revenue in favor of building a more extensive, loyal subscriber base. The tech giant believes that the long-term benefits of increased subscriptions and higher overall engagement will outweigh the initial revenue loss from traditional sales.

For gamers, the inclusion of “Call of Duty” in Game Pass offers significant benefits. Subscribers can access the latest installment without the hefty upfront cost, making gaming more accessible. This move aligns with broader industry trends toward subscription models, which offer users a variety of content for a single monthly fee, enhancing value and convenience.

Expanding Game Pass

In addition to “Call of Duty,” Game Pass offers a vast library of titles, including both new releases and classic games. Microsoft’s strategy is to continually add high-quality content to its service, keeping subscribers engaged and attracting new users. By doing so, Game Pass aims to become the go-to service for gamers, similar to how Netflix revolutionized the streaming of movies and TV shows.

Microsoft’s Game Pass has revolutionized how gamers access a diverse library of titles. By adding high-profile games like “Call of Duty,” Microsoft aims to strengthen its position in the competitive gaming market. The inclusion of such a significant franchise highlights the company’s dedication to providing value to its subscribers and enhancing the overall gaming experience.

The next “Call of Duty” installment, set to debut on Game Pass, exemplifies Microsoft’s forward-thinking approach. This move not only attracts new subscribers but also showcases Microsoft’s confidence in the subscription model as a sustainable and profitable strategy.

Conclusion: A Game-Changing Move

Microsoft’s decision to debut the new “Call of Duty” on Game Pass is a bold move that underscores its commitment to innovation in the gaming industry. By offering high-value content through its subscription service, Microsoft aims to redefine how gamers access and enjoy their favorite titles. As the industry continues to evolve, this strategic shift could set a new standard for game distribution and subscription models, positioning Microsoft as a leader in the next era of gaming.

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