From a consumer standpoint, Xbox One's new Game Pass service sounds like a great deal. Getting access to a massive catalog of titles, including upcoming Microsoft exclusives Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Crackdown 3 on day one definitely is a tempting offer. However, this does mean that retailers are going to get stuck with a back stock of games that are going to be a lot harder to sell if everyone's just paying a monthly fee to have the same games in their digital catalog.
Several indie retailers spoke with GamesIndustry.biz to get their perspective on the issue and find out if they're dropping support for Xbox products.
Stuart Benson, who works for Extreme Gamez in Leicestershire stated: "Essentially, it's made [our Xbox business] worthless overnight. You've got the whole section sat there, and why would people buy a £12 to £15 second-hand game when they can just pay a tenner and get a massive catalog of titles to keep them going? Effectively overnight they've wiped massive value off our company and made it not worth doing."
"Why should we support them and sell their consoles and accessories if we're going to get very little out of it? We don't make anything off their digital selection. It's pretty pointless. We might as well go where we're supported, which is Sony."
"I've got no hardware left, no control pads - and I'm not going to do an order now. I would have restocked normally, but now there's no incentive for me to do so unless I get something dirt cheap."
"It's very frustrating, but we can see they don't care about retail business in the slightest. We got a lovely little plaque last year saying we're official Microsoft stockists, and that's a lovely token gesture - but for what reason, because they don't support us?"
Paul Lemesurier of Sholing Video spoke about how Game Pass affects sales in an already grueling market: "Game Pass will have an effect on all first-party titles. We have already told Exertis we will not be stocking Sea of Thieves at all. Why bother when supermarkets will throw it out less then cost, online e-tailers will break street dates - which are a joke - and ship up to five days before release cheaper than us, and now Microsoft is throwing it on Game Pass for a tenner."
Nick Elliott of Barkman Computers thinks it's a no-brainer for retailers to support PS4 over the Xbox One: "We will only support manufacturers and publishers who support us. If a customer comes into a retail store, and the retailer has a choice between selling an Xbox where they would never sell them anything again or a PS4 where they had a chance of some attach rate, they would surely sell them a PlayStation."
The list of indie retailers set to drop support for Xbox consoles and software is rather long, but it's hard to say if and how it would affect a company like Microsoft's bottom line. Plus, not all retailers are dropping support for the Xbox One.
Steve Walker of Insane Games said "To be honest with you, our sales are quite predominantly PS4 - the ratio is something like 5 to 1. So yes, I can see it making quite a big impact
"Anyone with any sense could have seen something like this coming since Microsoft's fabled first press launch with their 'no second-hand games' policy. They've made it clear from the offset of the Xbox One that this is the route that they want to go down - it's only now becoming clear how they're going to go about doing that. They've started to put their cards on the table."
Overall, the Game Pass may help breathe life into the struggling Xbox One's future, but the overall movement of the video game industry towards digital downloads and catalog content may mean impending doom for smaller indie stores like the ones quoted in this article. Whether or not this indie boycott even makes any sort of impact on Microsoft's bottom line remains to be seen.