A new report by the BBC investigates whether the continued growth of Xbox Game Pass means any smaller indie titles not included as part of the service could fall by the wayside.
And with all of Activision Blizzard’s studios set to join the Xbox Game Studios family, indie developers are worried that Xbox may eventually be able to release a continuous stream of high-profile titles that will dominate the Game Pass library.
One indie developer sharing her concerns in the article is Tanya Short, who created the critically acclaimed Boyfriend Dungeon (which is currently on Game Pass).
Boyfriend Dungeon - launch trailer
Short said that most indie studios currently avoid launching games during the run-up to Christmas because they don’t want to compete with ‘triple A’ titles, but that this may no longer be a useful strategy.
“This Activision acquisition strikes fear in us because it makes it so much more obvious – maybe they could dominate the rest of the year and then what do we do?” she said.
The BBC says Short is “one of a number of indie game developers” who have told it they’re worried about what Microsoft‘s Activision Blizzard deal could mean for the industry.
It also cites Sad Cat Studios founder and game director Yura Zhadanovich, who’s working on cyberpunk adventure game Replaced, which will also launch on Game Pass.
Zhadanovich reportedly had praise for the way Microsoft has been dealing with his studio, but maintained concerns about whether there would continue to be enough support for indie developers as more high-profile titles are added to Game Pass.
The concern is shared by Ampere Analysis analyst Piers Harding-Rolls, who also tells the BBC that as more subscribers sign up to Game Pass, any indie games not on the service are likely to struggle more to sell copies.
“Conceivably, indie games outside of these services might lose engagement as subscribers focus most of their attention on games they can access for free within the service,” he explained.
“Conceivably, indie games outside of these services might lose engagement as subscribers focus most of their attention on games they can access for free within the service.”
Game Pass is one of the reasons the perceived value of indie games is in a “race to the bottom”, according to veteran developer Jake Simpson of TNB Studios.
He told the BBC: “People are prepared to spend $1,000 dollars (£740) on a telephone and then get very offended if you ask them to pay $4.99 for a game.”
When asked for comment, Microsoft’s corporate VP of Gaming Ecosystem at Xbox, Sarah Bond, stated: “We are continuing to invest with indie developers and we will continue to do so as the service grows.”
She argued that Game Pass could actually be beneficial to indie developers because it could encourage players to try out new game genres they’ve never been interested before, then check out similar titles if they discover they like them.
As an example, she claimed that 60% of the players who tried Human Fall Flat on Game Pass had never played a puzzle game before, and 40% of those people went on to buy a different puzzle game that wasn’t on Game Pass.
Xbox confirmed last month that Game Pass had topped 25 million subscribers.
It has also stated that once its proposed acquisition is complete, it plans to put as many Activision Blizzard titles as possible on Game Pass.
“Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalogue,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said.