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Original Xbox exec says Game Pass makes him 'nervous'

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What you need to know

  • Ed Fries is a former Microsoft executive who served as the vice president of game publishing at Xbox until he left Microsoft in 2004.
  • Fries recently spoke on the Xbox Expansion Pass podcast, where he said that the impact of Xbox Game Pass makes him "nervous." 
  • Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, has previously indicated that the company still sees individual game sales as valuable in addition to Xbox Game Pass.

Xbox Game Pass is often seen as an incredible deal for customers and an easier way for Microsoft to get more people playing different games, but the service continues to have its skeptics, including Ed Fries, a former Microsoft executive who worked on the original Xbox as vice president of game publishing until he left in 2004.

Speaking with Luke Lohr on episode 132 (opens in new tab) of the Xbox Expansion Pass podcast, Fries shared insights into his career, as well as his thoughts on where Microsoft is taking Xbox right now. 

While Fries praised Microsoft's newfound investment into gaming, making multiple major acquisitions including ZeniMax Media in 2020 and the recent announcement of Activision Blizzard, the former executive did explain that the direction of Xbox Game Pass is concerning to him. 

"The one thing that they’re doing that makes me nervous is Game Pass," he said. Fries went on to compare Xbox Game Pass to Spotify, stating that Spotify destroyed the market for purchasing songs to the point people "just don't buy songs anymore."

Fries does acknowledge that the situation isn't exactly the same, as Xbox Game Pass represents only one fraction of the gaming market. While not a direct competitor, as it lacks the day-one arrival of first-party games, Sony has notably planned a revamp of PlayStation Plus with multiple tiers.

Speaking at a GDC Fireside Chat (opens in new tab) earlier in the year, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer noted that the idea game sales aren't important is "...absolutely not true," while adding that he doesn't see Xbox Game Pass as a direct equivalent to services like Netflix because of the options available. 

"This is where I sometimes contrast against other forms of media that we get compared to whether its music, whether its videos, I fundamentally believe a strength for us in the video game business is the diversity of business models and the strength of those," Spencer explained.

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Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.