The Ascent shows how Xbox Game Pass can help smaller titles sell big

This story about the streaming network effect, boiled down, in 1:29 minutes.

What’s the fuss?

A newly released indie game sold big on its first week of release, even though the game was on a streaming service and could be played almost for free. Counter-intuitively, it may have been streaming itself that was the catalyst.

The situation

Xbox Game Pass, a video game streaming service, allows anyone to download a wide catalogue of full video games to their Xbox or PC for a reasonable monthly price.

According to the game’s publisher, The Ascent earned more than $5 million in pure sales on its opening weekend, despite the fact that gamers could have gotten the game at no additional cost through Xbox Game Pass.

Boiling it down

On Netflix, many dying shows get revived thanks to what’s called the “Network Effect” — where a increased number of people enhance a good or service’s value.

  • Gamers are almost like Netflix bingers in a sense — when a lot of people start talking about a new show/game that is on a service like Netflix or Xbox Game Pass, the word-of-mouth spreads rapidly.
  • Game Pass helps build a foundational player base for its games due to its lower barriers to entry, who then can influence players without Game Pass to purchase the game outright.
  • The Ascent is able to be played with friends, which also enhances the attractiveness of the game as it favours this interpersonal networking.

The Ascent isn’t the only smaller game to benefit from the Network Effect, in fact Microsoft has seen many of its Game Pass games still sell well outside of their streaming service.

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