Is Microsoft’s ad-supported game the big step for global Game Pass Mobile success?

Is Microsoft’s ad-supported game the big step for global Game Pass Mobile success?

Advertising in your video games? Microsoft may have a model that can convince you…a new model of Game Pass where you can “watch 30 seconds of an ad and then get two hours of game streaming.” It might all sound a bit bizarre, but we think it could help them grab the attention of more global players through a device that you might just be holding in your hand right now.

As reported by TweakTown, Xbox CFO Tim Stuart has suggested ad-supported game streaming - something that wouldn’t sound out of place in a TV or movie service briefing. At a summit last month, he suggested the company could expand their Game Pass subscription model—already available on mobile—to include ads, but don’t worry, this isn’t quite the same as Netflix. Instead, Tim pointed to areas like Africa, India and South-East Asia as the target. Areas with little console uptake…but a lot of mobile phones.

Africa [for example] is, you know, 50% of the population is 23 years old or younger with a growing disposable income base, all with cell phones and mobile devices, not a lot of high-end disposable income, generally speaking,” Stuart said. He indicated that this may be a market that would be interested in their new, ad-supported model.

Xbox Game Pass allows users to access a library of games via subscription, downloading and being able to play them for as long as they're signed up. Since 2019, Xbox Cloud has also been a part of this service and allows players to directly stream games to their console, PC and mobile, offloading most of the hardware-intensive processes to outside servers. It's proven extremely popular but also has its stumbling blocks, namely internet connectivity being a requirement.

It may be off-putting for audiences who’re used to a “pay once, own forever” model, or to the ad-free subscription model prevalent in the West, but in other countries across the globe the prospect of being able to play any of the latest releases on your phone and only having to watch an ad every few hours might be very tempting. But in places like South-East Asia and India, Microsoft may have its work cut out for it, with some serious competition native to mobile already engaging audiences

Games like BattleGrounds Mobile India, Garena Free Fire and the upcoming High-Energy Heroes can offer players high-octane action without needing a hefty connection — so, why would they pivot to Microsoft’s Xbox and PC-first solution? Microsoft is, however, also confident that the global rollout of 5G internet connectivity could solve the latency issue too — clearing a major hurdle to widespread adoption.

Of course, for a lot of mobile players, the idea of watching ads isn’t unusual. I mean we’ve all taken the plunge in games like Vampire Survivors to get that extra life by watching a short ad. But the real question is whether what Microsoft’s offering will be enough to sway mobile gamers to have a go - one of the issues that gamers have had is finding those titles on Game Pass with adequate touch controls, for example. Fixing the numerous logistical issues involved will require a good deal of investment in the product.

In these highlighted areas, multiplayer is a major attraction. It could be that Microsoft can attract sceptical players by offering a new raft of player-versus-player or co-op titles for them to enjoy. But in other countries that means they’d need to be localised - translated and have other alterations made to suit the needs and tastes of players. Not only that, but they’d need to capture an audience quickly in order to get servers up, online and full; first impressions are everything, especially in the constantly evolving mobile market.

It’s a trickier proposition than it sounds, but there’s definitely an eager audience in these places. South-East Asia is already a popular destination for League of Legends players, and African gamers are eagerly awaiting new, exciting games.

What do you think? Would you watch an ad to play a game on your phone if it was something you’d get on a console? Do you know someone who would? Let us know!

Iwan Morris
Iwan Morris
Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the editorial team in November of 2023.
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