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The future of Xbox Game Pass rests on the shoulders of Call of Duty: Black Ops 6

Published May 28th, 2024 8:17PM EDT
Play Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 on Day One with Xbox Game Pass

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Xbox Game Pass has been trying to bring to gaming what Netflix brought to cable for years now — a subscription service with access to a huge library of content. While you don’t own the content, the price is just too good to pass up rather than buying everything individually.

After years of trying to build this new business model in the gaming world, Microsoft has made progress. The latest numbers from a few months ago put the subscriber count for Game Pass at 34 million — surely nothing to sneeze at. However, all of that growth isn’t growthing fast enough, and Xbox is ready to throw a grenade in the library.

As the company revealed today, it will be releasing Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 on Xbox Game Pass on day one. In a blog post after the company accidentally leaked the information with some unfortunate push notifications, Microsoft said, “We’re excited to confirm that Game Pass members will be able to jump into Call of Duty®: Black Ops 6 on day one with Game Pass.”

As revealed last week, we will have a special Xbox Games Showcase followed by Call of Duty®: Black Ops 6 Direct on June 9, 2024, at 10am PT, where we’ll share even more details on what’s coming in this all-new Call of Duty®. Get eyes on the first in-depth look at gameplay in this dark new chapter of the Black Ops series.

Activision also released a live-action trailer to hype up the new title:

This will determine the future of Xbox Game Pass

There’s no denying that this will be the biggest game released on day one on Game Pass by far. While there have been other big titles like Forza, Halo, and most recently, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, that have made Day One debuts, Call of Duty is in a league of its own when it comes to community size and relevance in the gaming industry.

It’s one of the biggest franchises of all time — so much so that Microsoft paid almost $70 billion to acquire Activision Blizzard to get its hands on it (among other things). Bringing a title like Call of Duty to Xbox Game Pass — especially on the same day it’s available to purchase — is a huge bet for the company.

If Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 causes an explosion of Game Pass signups and Microsoft ends up with a ton of retaining customers, it will have been a bet worth making. It’s not a far-out idea, either. Most Call of Duty players play multiplayer, so if you want to keep playing the game, you have to stay subscribed to Game Pass. That one game alone could keep players on the service.

The game could also encourage many gamers to not only subscribe to Xbox Game Pass for the first time, but also potentially get a lot of existing Xbox Game Pass Core subscribers to upgrade to one of the more expensive tiers, such as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Those two moves combined could not only boost the number of subscribers to Game Pass, but also increase the average amount of revenue brought in by each of those subscribers. That would be a huge win for Microsoft and pave the way towards releasing even more AAA titles on the service, locking in gamers and enticing studios to release more games on the service, driving growth and value.

Xbox Game Pass Core is replacing Xbox Live Gold.
Xbox Game Pass Core replaced Xbox Live Gold. Image source: Xbox

Or, the move will blow up in Microsoft’s face. This is a real possibility. While some gamers could sign up for the new game through Game Pass, many could decide that they’d rather own it straight up. Others could sign up for a free month to essentially demo the game and, if it’s not to their liking, cancel before Microsoft makes a dime.

The company is making a huge bet that the future of gaming is like the future of the rest of entertainment and people don’t want to own their games anymore — just like we’re okay not owning our movies or music. Testing this theory with the next Call of Duty might be its biggest bet on Game Pass yet, and if it doesn’t do what Microsoft is hoping it will do, it could spell a much more tame future for the service.

I’ll be curious to see how the company talks about this when it hosts its Xbox Games Showcase and Call of Duty Direct event on June 9th.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.