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Call of Duty Is Moving to Game Pass as Part of a Major Gaming Overhaul

Game Pass subscribers will be the first to get their hands on Microsoft’s highly anticipated new Call of Duty game, Black Ops 6, as the publisher breaks the traditional rules for major video game launches.

In the past, gamers had to pay a lot of money in advance to get their hands on big new games.

With the newest version of the game, they’ll be able to opt for a subscription that’s much cheaper per month.

Microsoft and the gaming industry have taken a major step forward, according to Christopher Dring, CEO of Speaking to the BBC, Dring said:

While the tech giant has made its Game Pass games available on launch day in the past, including 2023’s highly anticipated Starfield, it’s never done so on the day of a major Call of Duty release.

It is the 4th best-selling video game series in history with over 425 million lifetime sales and has earned tens of billions in revenue.

It’s arguably the crown jewel in developer Activision Blizzard’s crown, which Microsoft famously acquired in 2023 for an eye-watering £56bn (then $69bn).

But instead of following the traditional sales model, Microsoft is betting on something new.

“Call of Duty is the biggest game ever to go into subscription on the day it comes out,” said Mr Dring.

[It} poses a significant challenge to subscription growth, as if the popularity of Call of Duty does not translate into more subscribers, it is unlikely that anything else will,” he said.

“Netflix for games” “Netflix for games

Game Pass, like Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, allows console and PC gamers to play hundreds of titles for a single monthly subscription fee.

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Both have been called “Netflix for games,” but Game Pass allows gamers to download many of the titles to their own hardware — rather than streaming them over the cloud.

These services are hugely popular, with Sony claiming to have 47 million subscribers to PlayStation Plus as of March 2023 and Microsoft claiming to have 34 million subscribers to Game Pass as at February 2024.

That means that unless something happens between now and the release date of Call of Duty (which has not yet been announced), none of those 34 million subscribers of Game Pass will be paying anything extra to enjoy the new game.

That means Microsoft is essentially gambling on cannibalising sales in the hopes that it will be rewarded with a massive boost in Game Pass subscriptions.

According to Mr Dring, the decision was likely due to a fundamental issue with video game streaming services: people simply don’t play as much video games as they do TV shows, and “it can be difficult to justify” paying to play a game or two.

But with such a large game coming on board, he said there could be more to come to balance out the numbers. “It’s going to be interesting to see if Xbox will introduce premium tiers or other ways to monetise Game Pass to balance it out,” he said.

Streaming or downloading

One thing that’s not clear from Microsoft’s announcement is whether the new game will be available to stream, or if gamers will have to download the game. This is because when Microsoft bought Activision, they had to make some concessions in order to avoid the scrutiny of regulators around the world.

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To get the deal through UK regulators, for example, Microsoft gave French video game publisher Ubisoft exclusive distribution rights for all of Activision’s games across consoles and PCs.

This means that the cloud streaming rights will be decided by Ubisoft, which means that the game might not be available to stream when it comes out. It also means that the new version of Call of Duty could end up being available on other streaming platforms in the future.

However, the exact details of the agreement are not clear, and it’s highly unlikely that PlayStation gamers will be able to watch the game on stream the day it comes out.

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