Game Pass Revolution: Microsoft Gambles Big with Call of Duty

Liam Williams


Game Pass Revolution: Microsoft Gambles Big with Call of Duty

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is planning a game-changing move: releasing this year's newest Call of Duty on Game Pass from day one. This daring decision, set to be officially announced during Microsoft's June showcase, aims to solidify the Game Pass service as the premier subscription-based gaming platform. The acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $70 billion was already a monumental step, but including Call of Duty on Game Pass could redefine the subscription gaming landscape.

Releasing Call of Duty on Game Pass highlights Microsoft's ambitions to boost the platform's value substantially. Despite having incorporated games from iconic studios like Bethesda and Obsidian, snagging Call of Duty — the franchise that’s synonymous with blockbuster sales—would supercharge the perceived worth of the subscription service. However, while this move aims to attract a surge of new subscribers, there are underlying risks, especially given the concerning trends of slow subscriber growth reported in recent years.

There are financial pressures very visibly affecting Microsoft’s gaming division. For instance, Xbox's console sales have been underwhelming, lagging behind PlayStation 5 significantly. Furthermore, Microsoft's aggressive studio acquisitions have resulted in layoff waves and closures, as seen recently with Tango Gameworks and Arkane Austin. The substantial investment in Activision Blizzard adds to the burden, signaling a high-stakes environment where Game Pass's success is imperative for financial justification.

Existing data indicates that Game Pass eats into traditional game sales significantly. A UK regulator confirmed that offering games on the subscription service has a cannibalizing effect on other sales formats. This means that Microsoft is putting a secure, lucrative revenue stream at risk for a bet on subscription booming. If the Call of Duty inclusion on Game Pass doesn’t translate into substantial subscriber increases, the move could be an expensive misstep with long-term consequences for Microsoft and its subsidiary developers.

While the decision to make Call of Duty available on Game Pass from day one is bold, its success is not guaranteed. This strategy aims to position Microsoft at the forefront of a potential "Netflix for games" era, but whether the market is ready remains uncertain. If subscriptions dominate future game distribution, Microsoft’s calculated risk might pay off handsomely. However, there is an inherent danger that this could also lead to devaluing the Xbox catalog and harming traditional sales. Only time will reveal the true impact of this ambitious move.