Xbox Game Pass titles in 2022: what's their reach?
We estimate data to answer that question, and preview a new service.
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
Welcome to Wednesday’s GameDiscoverCo newsletter, my friends. We’re excited: we talk so much about more transparent discovery platforms like Steam. So we’re happy - after a lot of prep - to start talking more about specific game console data.
Why is this important? Well, a little more knowledge - even if the numbers are ‘indicative’ and not absolute - can help everyone understand the market better. And that only helps the whole industry move forward.
[Aha, 6 days left for our 25% off a GameDiscoverCo Plus paid subscription deal, if you didn’t grab. This includes an exclusive Friday PC/console game trend analysis newsletter, a big Steam ‘Hype’ & performance interactive data set, eBooks, a member-only Discord & more.]
Game Pass titles in 2022: some player numbers
We know that the Game Pass service from Xbox has at least 25 million subscribers, according to a January 2022 statement from Microsoft. That’s impressive numbers for a service that lets you pay $10-$15 per month for ‘all you can eat’ access to hundreds of games.
And more of the games launching in Game Pass are picking a ‘games as a service’-type approach, as illuminated by Ampere Analysis: “In Sept 2020, total number of titles in Game Pass Ultimate stood at 294 (in the US) - in Aug 2022 this had reached 550 (+87%) - In this time, live service games have grown from 17 (6% of catalogue) to 46 (9%).”
So yes, titles like this often fund continuing dev and profit via IAP, DLC, and so on. But what fraction of Game Pass players have been playing certain titles, live service or not? This is important for understanding reach - for small indies & bigger titles alike.
GameDiscoverCo has been working for the last few months on basic estimations of player numbers for games in the Xbox ecosystem, using publicly available info like chart rankings, achievements and review counts.
So here’s GameDiscoverCo’s Xbox ecosystem owner estimates for a selection of games that were ‘Game Pass Day 1’ titles at some point during 2022:
This data - even if simply indicative - is interesting, to say the least. Some comments on how this is all working, and possible trends:
‘Xbox ecosystem’ includes Xbox/PC Game Pass players & non-GP purchases: so these numbers encompass any unique accountholder who has touched the game in any part of Xbox’s expanding empire - including cloud plays on mobile devices.
Game Pass use is likely to encompass 90%-99% of these owners: with a handful of exceptions, we think that Game Pass is the main way that people play these Day 1 GP games. (Which is fine, since the devs are compensated for that!)
The median owner numbers for all 50+ ‘Game Pass Day 1’ titles in 2022 is 230,000: if you have your game in Game Pass, that is impressive reach. (The average is around 500,000, but that’s probably not the right way to look at it.)
Intriguingly, Game Pass has great uptake from games that are easy to ‘sample’. For example, Pac-Man Museum+ has sold ‘OK’ on Steam - likely under 10,000 units. And we think it sold ≈15,000 units on PlayStation. But it has a massive 960,000 - likely fairly casual - owners through Game Pass.
There are notable hits vs. the median in our sample above - both Tunic (4x median owners) and Nobody Saves The World (2.5x median owners) are clearly games that connected with the Game Pass-playing public. (PowerWash Sim, at 9x median owners, even more so, hah!)
There’s also a question of engagement underlying this. Does Xbox value more a Pac-Man-style game where almost 1 million people may dabble for a few minutes, or a Nobody Saves The World-like experience, where less people play, but (presumably!) for longer.
One thing at a time: we’ll work on that in due course. But we’ll be sharing new data from our Xbox and PlayStation estimates every couple of weeks - this is just the first.
Announcing GameDiscoverCo Pro - a new offering
Perhaps you’re interested in daily multiformat owner estimates across console and PC games. Or just better ground-up (not top-down!) data around the combined PC/console ecosystem in general.
So - I’m happy to reveal that we’re planning a larger data site, GameDiscoverCo Pro, which’ll launch in late Q4 2022 or early Q1 2023. Its two key new features are:
We’re tracking lifetime owners daily across Steam, Xbox and PlayStation platforms. (With extra context on if titles are in Game Pass & PlayStation Plus, and select regional split data.)
We’re extending a genre taxonomy across PlayStation and Xbox games, so you will easily be able to easily see the rankings of Survival games on console, for example - and 100+ other game types. (Current console ‘genre’ metadata isn’t great, so we’re filtering and extending Steam’s subgenres into it.)
Obviously we’re planning extra features - especially around ‘similar games’, for more sophisticated research. (We’re also looking at Switch data in the medium-term. And DAU/MAU later on.) But that’s the starting point. If interested, you can enter your email here, and we’ll contact you when we’re ready to show it.
Some facts and clarifications about how this whole thing is coming together:
Plus subscribers, we’re not planning to change any of the Steam data you get as part of your subscription. And we’re keeping GameDiscoverCo Plus with all the great perks (Discord, exclusive newsletters, etc) that we normally have.
This is a bigger project, so our regular team (myself, Thomas & Alejandro) is being joined by two special guest collaborators to put the Pro data, front-end and back-end together.
Our data warehouse for this new console data is being run by Tomek, the creator of GamingAnalytics.info, which has a paid sub you should check out - and over 4 billion data points (!) specifically on Steam games. He’s a database & math whiz.
The front end is being created by Ashley Gwinnell, who you may know from Coverage Bot*, which tracks influencer campaign metrics (YouTube, Twitch, press articles) via Discord/Slack & a web-based dashboard. We love his UI skills & are hyped to collaborate. (*Use code GAMEDISCOVERCO20 for 20% off, forever.)
The Pro site is intended for medium and large publishers, devs, and investors, since we need to pay folks to work on this goodness! (But we’ll give smaller indies the best deal we possibly can, and will make select data/analysis free regularly.)
Thanks for expressing interest, and good luck to us as we move into this brave new era for GameDiscoverCo? (Also: more interesting console data in newsletter, soon!)
The game discovery news round-up..
OK, finishing up the ‘helpful information for you all’ for the week, let’s take a look at the game platform and discovery trends that we spotted since Monday:
A major Steam sale change is upon us: “Starting in calendar year 2023, we'll be replacing the Lunar New Year Sale with the Spring Sale as one of the four major seasonal sales.” Makes sense & spaces things out more - Valve’s post also has the specific dates of the next Autumn, Winter, and Spring sales, ICYMI.
Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg continues to put his personal brand behind the Quest as an AR/VR solution, making a Facebook post today which has him “fencing in the metaverse with Olympic gold medalist and world's #1 ranked Lee Kiefer and 2x Olympic medalist Gerek Meinhardt”, using the Quest Pro & mixed reality.
Shout-out to a couple of newsletters you might not have spotted: Zach Bussey’s Today Off Stream (free weekly, $ for extra content) runs down Twitch/YouTube-centric news from a streamer perspective; Jon Jordan’s GamesTX (free weekly, $ for daily content) is covering NFT/crypto in an even-handed way, if that’s your poison.
There’s new information on the PlayStation Stars loyalty program, just rolling out in Asia: seems like you get “loyalty points and digital collectibles”, and the loyalty points can be redeemed for PSN wallet funds and select PS Store products. Also, PS+ subscribers get points for all of their PS store purchases. Intriguing.
VR microlinks: #1 most-’Hyped’ Steam VR game, physics sim Bonelab, is ‘surprise’ launching on Thursday 29th for both Steam & Quest; the third-party Nofio wireless adaptor for the Valve Index is now wishlistable; the latest Quest OS update includes “a new option to let parents remove developer mode on Quest 2, thereby blocking SideQuest entirely for kids entirely.”
Steam Deck things: this IGN interview with Valve talks lessons since launch, Docking Station delays; you can now see most-played ‘Great On Deck’ games on Valve’s website; did you know that Heroic Games Launcher is an Epic Games Store & GOG launcher that works on Steam Deck?
Yet more cloud-based gaming handhelds? Razer Edge 5G just got partially revealed, and: “As the name suggests, Razer’s gaming handheld includes full 5G connectivity as part of a partnership with Verizon… [to] make cloud gaming possible without Wi-Fi.” More info on October 15th, but this market’s getting interesting.
Netflix is officially “rolling out the ability to create game handles for a more personalized gameplay experience”, which is unique public username that can be used across all Netflix games. (Makes sense, since Netflix’s mobile game players want a public gamertag that isn’t their real name.)
Esoteric microlinks: how guides help video game sites survive the modern Internet; Shawn Pierre is the new Independent Games Festival chairperson; lamenting the lack of ‘breakout’ podcasting hits as that market gets busy (feel familiar?)
Finally, I forgot about this excellent game dev advice (about advice!) from Jacob Janerka, who’s making the very cute The Dungeon Experience. It’s so practical:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]