Despite Palworld's success, Game Pass needs the likes of Call of Duty or GTA 6 to become sustainable, former senior PR lead says

GTA 6 cars
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Microsoft needs to wrestle either Call of Duty or GTA 6 onto its subscription service if it hopes to make its gaming division sustainable, according to former senior public relations lead Brad Hilderbrand.

Coming off the closures of four Microsoft-owned studios, Hilderbrand blogged about where the mega-corporation can go from here in the wake of its exorbitant Activision Blizzard buyout and muted Xbox Game Pass growth. Hilderbrand speculates that almost every game that launches into Game Pass "badly misses its sales goals," despite seeing a temporary boost from being the hot new thing. 

"So games like Hi-Fi Rush, which is incredible mind you, get a very small bump in revenue from being the hot Game Pass game for a month, then it falls off a cliff when everyone moves onto the next thing," he explains in a LinkedIn post. "Poor Redfall had it even worse since it launched so rough, it never had a chance."

Hilderbrand continues to say that "the system was fine" back when the service was still on the uptick and the gaming division "was basically a rounding error in Microsoft's books." Since Xbox began its shopping spree for developers, publishers, and then the publisher Activision Blizzard, "the Eye of Sauron has turned" - or, in less nerdy terms, Microsoft higher-ups who don't know what a Viva Pinata is are suddenly paying attention. "Xbox is expected to start making that $70 billion back, or at least cut expenses to the bone."

Even though games such as Starfield and Palworld contributed to record-breaking engagement for the Xbox ecosystem, Hilderbrand argues that these releases "haven't spurred near enough growth." With smaller games (Hi-Fi Rush) and heavy hitters (Starfield) not moving the needle, Hilderbrand thinks Xbox needs "to put all the world's biggest games on the service."

"The only (outside) shot is to put all the world's biggest games on the service and make it an absolute must-have in the eyes of players," he says. "Minecraft is there already, Fortnite is there but it's F2P so you're not really adding value, the only things left are [Call of Duty] or GTA 6. No chance GTA goes to Game Pass, and I think with COD you're doing the same math and basically saying it's too much of a risk to give up the guaranteed sales revenue in the hope of driving enough Game Pass subs."

Xbox president Sarah Bond just yesterday reiterated that Activision games will hit the service on release day, supporting the idea that Microsoft is in fact willing to take a sales hit to potentially boost Game Pass. 

The Xbox president also swerved a question about why the Hi-Fi Rush and Pret teams were shut down, saying that success for every game is “really unique.”

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.