Recently, the concept of ‘free, ad-supported Game Pass’ surfaced during a presentation with Wells Fargo that was headed by Microsoft’s CFO, Tim Stuart. This intriguing suggestion was put forward by Stuart as an entry-level option for gamers that have less ‘high-end disposable income’, giving them the ability to stream games through the Xbox Cloud after watching some ads.
It’s not a crazy idea. In recent years, the concept of ‘FAST’ (Free Ad-Support Television) has risen sharply, and even some top-tier streaming platforms and broadcasters are getting in on the hype. Could gaming be the next industry to take advantage of free, ad-supported platforms?
Free Is Free
In a simple statement, Tim Stuart outlined the potential operating model for a free, ad-supported Game Pass offering:
For models like Africa, or India, Southeast Asia, maybe places that aren’t console-first, you can say, ‘Hey, do you want to watch 30 seconds of an ad and then get two hours of game streaming?’
Africa 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.
So, we can go in with our own business models and say… there are millions and millions of gamers we would never have been able to address there, and now we can go in with our business models.
It would make sense and there are many ways that Microsoft could taper the offer to suit their needs and limitations. For instance, only certain games could be made available or there could be the option to extend gameplay by watching a series of advertisements midway through your session. It sounds harsh, but it would need to be a ‘weak enough’ offering to not dissuade paying subscribers from, you know, paying.