Microsoft plans to launch 'Call of Duty' on Game Pass — is a price increase inevitable?

Xbox Game Pass
(Image credit: Xbox)

If you're a Call of Duty (COD) fan and you already have Xbox Game Pass, you may love this exclusive news from The Wall Street Journal. According to the WSJ, Microsoft plans to launch the new COD game directly to Xbox Game Pass, the same successful approach it took with Starfield's launch last September.

Following the Starfield launch, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed during the company's FY24 Q1 earnings call that it "set a record for the most Game Pass subscriptions added on a single day ever." With how wildly popular the COD franchise is, it's virtually guaranteed that another record will be set when the newest title debuts this fall.

The WSJ reports that Microsoft will announce this news at the annual Xbox showcase in June. Consumers will still supposedly have the option to purchase the upcoming COD game outright for PC or console, even on PlayStation, but launching such a major game franchise on a streaming service instead of only as a purchasable title paints a unique picture for the future of the gaming industry.

A 'COD' launch on Game Pass could raise prices and negatively impact creativity

First and foremost, launching the new Call of Duty game on Xbox Game Pass will result in less overall game sales. The WSJ writes that the COD franchise has "ranked No. 1 in overall franchise sales each year from 2009 through 2023," and that won't happen if it launches on Xbox Game Pass. Sure they can move the goalpost with "most downloaded" or something similar, but it's not that same top sales figure.

In his final report on Activision, TD Cowen analyst Doug Creutz (via WSJ) said, "We strongly believe that an overall shift to a subscription model for the industry would negatively impact value creation at the publishers." The team working on a game will see less overall sales flowing back into their pockets, but Microsoft will still be raking in the dough through new Xbox Game Pass subscribers. 

To a consumer, it seems like the smarter decision to pay $9.99 to $16.99 a month for a streaming service that gives them access to a plethora of games rather than pay $70 for a single COD title. However, that appeal is likely all part of Microsoft's plan.

Just like Disney Plus launched at $6.99 a month in 2019, only to raise it to $13.99 a month in 2023, Xbox Game Pass probably won't stay at its low $9.99/$16.99 price forever. The plan for many streaming services is to first get people interested, and then increase prices.

Although Microsoft hasn't said anything yet about increasing Xbox Game Pass subscription costs, it's hard to believe they wouldn't — and many people on X share that sentiment.

Even with a price increase, Xbox Game Pass will likely still be a great value for those who have a lot of games on their to-play list. But it's worth noting the cannibalization effect launching a major IP on Game Pass will have on a-la-carte sales.

The WSJ says that Microsoft has pledged to not withhold the Call of Duty series from its rivals, but that doesn't mean the company won't delay the launch of new COD games on PlayStation, PC, or even Xbox consoles outside of Game Pass.

Bobby Kotick, former CEO of Activision prior to the Microsoft acquisition, said, "I have a general aversion to the idea of multigame subscription services" during a court hearing for the FTC lawsuit filed against Microsoft to block the Activision takeover. And honestly, I'm inclined to agree. 

Of course, we won't know anything officially until Microsoft announces the news at its Xbox showcase in June. Perhaps Microsoft will surprise us and launch the new COD on Game Pass and other platforms simultaneously.

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