Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass are becoming more and more prevalent in the gaming space. Beyond just Xbox's first-party offerings, it also signs deals for third-parties and independent devs, the latter of which has given us an idea of what it's like to sign with Xbox.
At GDC Summer 2020 yesterday, She Dreams Elsewhere creator Davionne Gooden gave a talk entitled "David & Goliath: How a Newbie Solo Developer Landed on Xbox Game Pass." In it, Gooden traced his path from starting out and getting noticed by Xbox representatives at GDC 2019 in the Indie Megabooth, which led to She Dreams Elsewhere getting a spot at an open house for ID@Xbox developers last August.
Following a successful showing at the open house, Gooden was offered a Game Pass deal in October. Though he's unable to talk details, he says it was "pretty huge" and "still the biggest financial deal I've ever gotten, to the point where I had to ask them to repeat the numbers on the phone call."
It may sound odd, but subscription services have become beneficial for some independent developers. No More Robots founder Mike Rose has sung its praises, and head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty says it allows Xbox's internal studios to avoid monetization issues. For an independent developer like Gooden, the immediate benefit was the influx of funds.
"Until that point I'd been bootstrapping," said Gooden during his GDC talk. "The game was funded out of pocket through videography gigs and other one-off hustles. I was also doing publisher negotiations at the time too, and the Game Pass deal allowed me to fund the rest of the game, make it profitable, and still do everything I wanted to do with a publisher, without having to get a publisher."
Though the time cost of doing all the business development was still a factor, Gooden highlights how straightforward and simple the Game Pass deal was as a benefit. Though She Dreams Elsewhere isn't quite out yet—it's currently aiming for a 2020 release—the benefit of the Game Pass deal has already been positive, it seems. With the uncertainty of development and sheer deluge of games launched every day, services like Game Pass might not just be useful for players to try games; it could also be a boon for those games getting made in the first place.