For whatever reason, there has been a trend on this subreddit to make the statement that “gamepass will reach 1 billion subscribers.” And then whoever makes this claim goes on to make broad sweeping generalizations about why this is attainable for Microsoft and why it is their goal. Things like, “the deal with starlink will help them reach this many customers,” and “the future of gaming is mobile gaming,” or “Microsoft has made the statement that they are trying to get 1 billion subscribers to game pass and they are posturing towards that,” or my personal favorite “there are 1.5 billion PC gamers and 1.5 billion mobile gamers, so they might even reach 3 billion subscribers with game pass.”
Before I get into it here, some users are keying on the fact that “Microsoft said they want to have 1 billion subscribers.” It is true that Choudry said that they “believe there is going to be 2 billion gamers in the world, and our goal is to reach every one of them.” (https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/15/17123452/microsoft-gaming-cloud-xbox-future
Now, that doesn’t say they will get those subs, but it does say they want to “reach” those gamers. Netflix reaches everyone (mostly) in the world, but as we see below they don’t have the subscription numbers to justify saying that Microsoft will get subscriptions equal to who they reach. It may just be that he meant that they want gamepass to be available on all devices that people play games on.
Ignoring, for a moment, the audacity of these people to think that game pass will become a necessity for all those gamers, and that there isn’t any cross over between the PC gamers and mobile gamers such that there isn’t actually 3 billion separate, unique, specific gamers, in the market that would subscribe; lets focus on the specifics for why 1 billion subscribers is completely unattainable.
There are a few factors that make 1 billion subscribers unattainable. First, population statistics – not just for the population of gamers, but also for the population of people in the world – shows that it is unreasonable to assume people will subscribe at the rate that is suggested. Second, there are no relevant comparators to suggest that ANY monthly paid service would get 1 billion subscribers – there are other popular global activities outside of gaming, like watching tv, listening to music and podcasts, or just general social media. Each have differences which show why a game subscription service would not reach 1 billion subscribers. And third, the growth of the current service over its short lifetime does not project growth into the billions, especially when considering there are competitors that will limit growth.
Lets start with populations statistics, specifically global statistics for everyone that is not a gamer currently. There are roughly 7.5 billion people on the earth, from the latest 2018 estimate and the current model projections. (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
Approximately 26% of the world’s population is under 15 years old and some 9% are over 65 years old. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/265759/world-population-by-age-and-region/#:~:text=As%20of%20mid%2D2020%2C%20about,were%20under%2015%20years%20old.&text=Globally%2C%20about%2026%20percent%20of,over%2065%20years%20of%20age.
Approximately 10% of the world is living in extreme poverty, on less than $2 a day. (https://lifewater.org/blog/9-world-poverty-statistics-to-know-today/#:~:text=Today%2C%20just%2010%20percent%20of,data%20gathering%20and%20humanitarian%20organizations.
And nearly 50% of the world lives on less than $5.50 a day (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/10/17/nearly-half-the-world-lives-on-less-than-550-a-day
Approximately 60% of the world has internet access (https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/#:~:text=Almost%204.57%20billion%20people%20were,percent%20of%20the%20global%20population.
Lets dive deeper into the global internet statistics. This is a GREAT resource for understanding global internet usage and access. (https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2019/01/30/digital-trends-2019-every-single-stat-you-need-to-know-about-the-internet/
Some highlights that we could dive deeper into, but will not, are that the average connected internet speed is 54.3 MBPS, the average mobile internet speed is 25.1 MBPS. While speed is clearly relevant to whether users can access gamepass, there is no need to delve into the minutia of whether 1 billion people even have access to internet capable of utilizing gamepass when its clear that only 30% of all streaming activities worldwide are for gaming services (this number does NOT include watching twitch or steaming to watch others play video games, which is about a separate 23%).
Going from these statistics alone, there are 4.8 billion people aged 16-64; 6.8 billion people not in extreme poverty, 3.75 billion people not in poverty of less than $5.50 a day, and 4.5 billion people who have access to internet. Let’s focus only on those 4.5 billion, of which only 1.3 billion are using their access for streaming some sort of ability to play games.
That means that in order for the game pass prediction to be true, for 1 billion people to subscribe to gamepass, gamepass MUST capture 100% of the market. Let me make clear how unattainable that is, no other service captures 100% of its market. Its unlikely that any service captures 50% of its market.
Outside of the internet user numbers, and gaming usage numbers, we still see that only 3.75 billion people would possibly have expendable income close enough to think about a monthly paid service. It is a safe assumption to say that anyone living on less than $5.5 a day is not going to be subscribing to a monthly gaming service. And not even considering the other factors, like what the ideal age is for someone who is going to subscribe to game pass, and how those numbers ALSO restrict the amount of subscribers to game pass. That means, right now, game pass could only induce 2 billion people to get internet and gamepass, up to the 3.75 that are living with more than $5.5 per day.
Let’s look at a relevant population that removes some of the barriers we are talking about above.
Lets assume that America is among the wealthiest countries in the world, and that their citizens share a higher expendable income and greateeasier access to affordable internet capable of gamepass; only 45% of adults in the US play video games (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/17/5-facts-about-americans-and-video-games/
Given our assumption that this group of people have better access to internet and devices capable of playing games, the best percentage of gamers we can expect among that population is 45%.
There are approximately 330 million people in the United States. (https://www.census.gov/popclock/
) Meaning that there are approximately 150 million gamers in the US. Gamepass only has 15 million subscribers (https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/370526/Xbox_Game_Pass_has_topped_15_million_subscribers.php
Assuming that the 15 million are only in the US, which I doubt, that means only 10% of gamers subscribe to gamepass.
Why is that? Why is that number so low? For starters, the gaming population is fractured by device, game publisher availability on said device, and generally demographics. It makes sense that of the 30 million playstation consoles sold in the US, none of them are on gamepass (https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/350778/Report_The_PS4_has_soldthrough_30_million_units_in_the_United_States.php
Additionally, not everyone wants to pay to play games and not own them, that is just common sense.
That brings us to relative comparators. What are some relevant and relative comparators to gamepass and how are they doing?
The short answer is that there aren’t any relevant, direct, comparators to gamepass. Meaning, there are no other streaming game services that are trying to integrate with consoles, pcs, and mobile users. However, there are other indirect comparators that are trying to offer a monthly paid streaming service for entertainment content. Additionally, there are other products and, potentially, services that have reached 1 billion users.
The most relevant comparator is Netlifx. Besides the fact that gamepass has been directly compared to it by most in the industry (https://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-xbox-game-pass-subscribers-are-there-2020-4
), they both are attempting to offer content, in a monthly service, to a global audience on multiple devices.
Admittedly, Netflix offers its service on more types of devices than gamepass does, but I don’t think this difference is a reason to describe any differentiation in projection. At its peak, Netflix had about 200 million subscribers (https://www.statista.com/statistics/250934/quarterly-number-of-netflix-streaming-subscribers-worldwide/#:~:text=In%20the%20third%20quarter%20of,company's%20DVD%20section%20has%20declined.
Even if we assume that multiple users are piggybacking off of one subscriber on Netflix (which is very possible at 5 profiles per sub, over 4 different devices at the most premium sub), it would still not reach 1 billion; we’ll say 800 million users because you could realistically only have 4 different households supported on one account. Ignoring that extrapolation, Netflix is still the streaming service with the most subscribers globally. (https://nofilmschool.com/streaming-subscribers#:~:text=The%20answer%20is%20simply%2C%20Netflix,worldwide%20as%20of%20March%202020.
Spotify also offers a streaming service for entertainment content. They have about 286 million users and 140 million paid subscribers (https://www.statista.com/statistics/244995/number-of-paying-spotify-subscribers/#:~:text=As%20of%20the%20second%20quarter,than%20doubled%20since%20early%202017.
None of the streaming services I sampled reach anything higher than the two of those in terms of subscriptions. And I think it is reasonable to assume that more people watch tv and listen to music than play video games. The difference with game pass as compared to those two services is that game pass doesn’t have a direct competitor. Netflix is competing with hulu, amazon prime tv, apple tv, etc. Spotify is competing against pandora, apple music, etc. Gamepass is maybe competing with playstation network, but gamepass is sporting that it will be more successful with PC gaming and mobile gaming. PSN , for reference, only has about 1 million subscribers. You could also look at ea access, ea origin, or stadia, but still it is not clear that those services will pierce consoles in a meaningful way.
The point is, even the biggest streaming platform, that reaches more devices, with media that is more readily consumed, has not even pierced 500 million subscribers. There is no data or reason to think that gamepass will be able to do what other giants have been unable to do. Especially when it is easier for gamers, or their parents who buy them games in some situations, to understand that “I can buy this game for $70 or less” or “I can subscribe to this service and play it for one year.” When the library is only 100 titles, it is more likely that people will buy the game. Gamepass has been booming recently, but some of that can be seen through the insane $1 deal, the coronavirus stay home pandemic, and additions of ea play and Bethesda.
Lastly, looking at the growth of gamepass. To its credit, gamepass is still young, being globally launched in 2017, and is already at 15 million subscribers. It has added 5 million this year alone, but the reasons for that could be coronavirus forcing some people to spend more time in doors with games, the fact that gamepass is expanding its library through Bethesda and EA play, and the launch of a new console. However, even in the face of the $1 deal, the coronavirus, Bethesda acquisition, ea play joining, and a new console, it only saw 5 million new subscribers. You need 985 million more new subscribers to reach 1 billion.
If we are talking about the acquisition of IP to get 100% market share of gamers, there aren’t really even any games that have 1 billion players.
The games with the biggest amounts of players are here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-played_video_games_by_player_count#cite_note-Variety-1
What is the most indicting thing about this list? An overwhelming majority of the games in the top 30 are FREE TO PLAY. The Legend of Mir 3 is the game that has the largest player base while being only subscription based. It has 120 million players.
This just shows that even the most popular games are not breaching 200 million if you HAVE TO PAY for it. Is gamepass going to be free? No, it will cost at least $10 a month.
That is gamepass’s biggest competition, free to play games. Gamepass can offer a massive library, in the future, that encompasses most major releases, and most of the console gamers, included PS5, might be induced to subscribe if gamepass becomes a crossplay thing (doubtful), but even then, you are counting on 1 Billion people to PAY for a service. That is incredibly unlikely.
In conclusion, there are too many factors against gamepass reaching 1 billion subscribers. Chief among them is that the global population just cannot sustain a MONTHLY PAID service when looking at poverty rates alone. When looking at the gaming population, globally it is likely around 1.5 billion people. To reach 1 billion subscribers, you need 100% market share. That is unheard of, especially among relevant comparators, like Netflix, which can only retain 200 million subscribers globally. When comparing the gaming population without the restrictions of life, and looking at a privileged population that can almost always game, (i.e. the US), there are only 150 million gamers in the US out of 300 million citizens. In the most charitable interpretation of Microsofts numbers, only 10% of gamers in the US have subscribed to game pass. The growth of gamepass recently can be contributed to a myriad of factors that will likely not continue in the future. Even still, the growth is EXTREMELY SMALL when thinking about getting to 1 billion subscribers.
The audacity and hubris to think that gamepass will reach 1 billion subscribers is unbelievable when you consider that Netflix only has 200 million subscribers.
Anyone who thinks that gamepass will blow out industry standards is out of their mind. It is a good value, it has room to grow, I bet it gets to maybe 100 million in 5-10 years, but not 1 billion.
TLDR; Grow up and realize that the world doesn’t care about gaming as much as privileged societies that have members who have enough leisure time to argue about this crap online.
PS- I’m so bored these trolls roped me into looking at the statistics for this garbage 1 billion argument. I cant wait for my XSX and PS5 to get here so I can ignore Reddit again.