Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced on Tuesday at the Gamescom show the names of 23 titles that will available at the launch of its new Xbox One game controller now scheduled for November. The list includes popular titles like Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag from Ubisoft and Madden NFL 25 from Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA).
One game not included is the latest version of Grand Theft Auto from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO). Also not in the launch day lineup is Halo Xbox One from Microsoft itself, although that title is listed among games that will be available on the new device.
Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) is scheduled to launch its PlayStation 4 at roughly the same time and the Japanese company’s PlayStation Plus free online gaming service, which has been a big hit among gamers, forced Microsoft to unveil its own sort-of-free Xbox Live Gold service. Under Microsoft’s plan gamers get a rotating offering of two free games a month along with their subscription.
That landscape has now changed though. Sony has said it will begin to charge users for its PlayStation Plus service, and analysts expect the company to rake in about $1.2 billion a year once the service is fully established among gamers. That’s about the amount Microsoft earns from its Xbox Live Gold program.
Microsoft, however, puts virtually all services connected with the Xbox One behind a paywall, including the ability to connect to Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) and to browse the web. Sony plans to limit what it places behind its PlayStation Plus paywall, but details are scarce.
How long gamers be willing to spend as much as $500 on a game controller plus an annual subscription fee of up to $60? For some, probably forever. For many, probably until a “good enough” free substitute that is massively popular shows up. For a few, the game console will remain but the subscription will go soon because it just isn’t worth their money.