As if making video games—especially massive, detailed triple-A games—wasn't hard enough, the proliferation of popular live service games has pressured developers to deliver similar success stories. Microsoft's head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty claims a major advantage to the Game Pass subscription model is that it removes the need to build games "around a service or around a business model."
In an interview with our sister site GamesIndustry.Biz, Booty frames this shift in priority as a boon to developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella. "It allows our game creators to do what they do best, which is make a game," says Booty. Since Microsoft itself is focused on bringing in Game Pass subscribers, individual Xbox studios don't need to be concerned with each game having a years-long monetization plan:
Game Pass itself takes care of being the service and the platform so when we go to design a game, we don't need to be thinking about what our plan is to sustain this for three or four years[...] We don't need to think about how we come up with a set of content updates so that this thing can run as a service, or whether we're going to be doing Fortnite-style updates every three weeks. It frees us from having to think about that.
Regardless of how Game Pass impacts the design of Microsoft's first-party titles, third-party titles—a large portion of Game Pass' current and future library—are not insulated from monetization concerns to the same degree. Platform owners can choose whether or not they leverage their big IP on a subscription service, whereas smaller publishers and devs don't start with the same options open to them.
As Booty notes later in the interview, the game subscription does put a greater demand on developers to consider "the first time user experience," but Microsoft also claims that Game Pass subscribers are trying more genres than they did previously.
Microsoft deemphasizing the games-as-a-service approach in favor of focusing on Game Pass as the sole service is perfectly in line with Microsoft's recent Game Pass-first behavior. When Gears 5 launched on Game Pass earlier this year, Microsoft touted it as a huge success whilst declining to report raw sales figures. Even with Project Scarlett slated to debut in 2020, Phil Spencer has said "the business is not how many consoles you sell."
Xbox is already positioning its other subscription services as add-ons to Game Pass. Game Pass Ultimate includes Xbox Live Gold, and Microsoft just announced that Project xCloud game streaming service will be part of Game Pass in some form.