Gears 5 just had the strongest launch week of any of its first-party titles released for the Xbox One, "easily doubling" the performance of its predecessor, Microsoft says. But there's a little bit of a catch: Game Pass wasn't around for Gears 4.
Microsoft touted all sorts of gaudy numbers in a new press release, calling it the "biggest launch week" of any first-party title for the Xbox One. The release says Gears 5 is Microsoft's most played since Halo 4 debuted for the Xbox 360, which grossed some $300 million in its opening week in 2012. Gears 4 lagged behind Battlefield One and Mafia 3 when it launched in October 2016.
How Gears 5 is performing in terms of raw sales compared to either of these titles is left unsaid. It topped Steam's charts at launch, but lost out to Borderlands 3 on the UK retail sales charts.
But Gears 5's sales might not matter much in the end. What really matters is packing in more Game Pass subscribers. Recently, analyst Daniel Ahmad took to Twitter to call Gears 5 the first "mega hit" on Game Pass. While he didn't offer any details, it suggests that Gears 5 owes much of its success to the service.
Indeed, Xbox Game Pass has proven to be a boon for Microsoft's first-party games since first launching in 2017. Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Forza Horizon 4 have all received boosts from the service, and they in turn have pushed greater numbers of subscribers to try out Game Pass.
In January 2018, Microsoft announced that all Xbox Game Studios titles would launch on Game Pass. On top of expanding Game Pass to the PC, credible rumors indicate that Microsoft is looking to bring Game Pass to the Nintendo Switch in some form. Subscription revenue is key to Microsoft's strategy: Xbox executive VP Phil Spencer says Microsoft wants Game Pass on "every device".
Spencer also deemphasized the importance of hardware sales around the time of E3 earlier this year. With the performance of Game Pass relying on the quality of its games, Microsoft continues to grow its list of developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella.
What all of this means is that Gears 5 is being judged by different metrics than Halo 4 and Gears 4. It's no longer about just raw sales. Microsoft's primary goal appears to be to build Game Pass subscriber counts to critical mass in preparation for the next generation of consoles, and Gears 5 is a means to an end in that regard—a very successful means at that.
As for Gears 5 itself, our review found it to be "mostly business as usual" for the franchise, but it has reached the mid-80s on Metacritic for both the Xbox One and PC. Whether you're playing on Game Pass or bought a copy, our guides page on Gears 5 has you covered on the game's modes, collectibles, and trickiest boss fight.