It seems Microsoft loves strategy games. I mean who doesn’t, right? But it’s not like your average RTS game gets the kind of mainstream attention that Halo or Cyberpunk gets. And yet, I recently sat down with Microsoft’s general manager for portfolio planning and analysis, Matt Percy, to talk about how valued these experiences are for Xbox Game Pass for PC.
Now known as PC Game Pass, the ‘Netflix for games’ service has certainly proven to be a very potent arrow in Microsoft’s quiver, and strategy games are reportedly an important component to its success. It’s not all about Forza Horizon 5 or Halo Infinite, it’s about Total War: Warhammer III and Microsoft’s own Age of Empires IV as well.
Some fun facts about PC Game Pass: strategy games made up about 15% of the launch portfolio, with grand strategy game Imperator: Rome one of the genre’s leading names on the service. Now, there are over 40 strategy games, and Percy couldn’t be happier. “Strategy games have become some of the most popular titles in our portfolio,” he tells us. “They’re consistently in the top ten games every month and they drive as much as 20% of our monthly engagement on PC.”
“Our goal for Game Pass has always been to offer gamers more choice,” Percy explains. “And give creators more choice as well. We think we’re having a really positive effect on the [strategy] genre on PC, because you’re making it more accessible to people.”
Percy has more stats to back him up on this as well. Apparently, after joining Game Pass people play 20% more games outside of the service, as well as trying 30% more genres. “It’s wild to me that somebody comes in maybe for a Halo and then discovers what they really loved is Darkest Dungeon all along,” Percy explains.
Longevity is key to most games, but strategy games seem especially good at this thanks to either long-running DLC support, passionate modding scenes, or ideally both. But unless you’re one of Microsoft’s first-party games then there’s no guarantee you’ll be on Game Pass forever, so migrating fans from the service is going to be an important final challenge.
Percy reiterates that Microsoft is very upfront about what’s coming and what’s leaving Game Pass in any given month, as well as offering discounts on purchasing Microsoft Store versions of a game, with additional discounts for DLC. It’s also important to the team that the Game Pass experience be as “consistent” with other platforms as possible.
Total War: Warhammer III will be the next big strategy game to come to PC Game Pass, although Victoria 3 is going to drop too when it arrives. In August Civilization-challenger Humankind launched as a day one Game Pass game and recently Slitherine put Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector onto the service – and the list keeps growing. Considering this is one of my favourite genres, it’s wonderful to see this kind of attention.
For Percy, it comes back down to being able to offer choice, and giving Game Pass subscribers more of what they want. And through the subscription model he hopes that developers get the freedom to focus on what they do best: “Make the game that you want to make,” he says.
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“Make the game that you feel comfortable making – there’s a home for it in the service. I think that’s a really fun thing to be able to say… We want developers to be able to make the games they want and find the audience’s that those games deserve.”