Much has already been said-including right here on GameSpot-about the significance of Call of Duty becoming a first-party Microsoft property, and whether it should become an Xbox exclusive or continue releasing on competing platforms. However, there is a different big decision Microsoft could make that would drastically expand another game’s audience: bringing World of Warcraft to Game Pass, though not necessarily Xbox.
World of Warcraft has seen a level of longevity that is almost unprecedented among online games, having continued without a true sequel for more than 17 years. However, that period hasn’t seen consistent growth, and many players have been leaving the game in recent months for alternatives such as Final Fantasy XIV. Getting people to stick around in a game long-term is difficult enough because of how many other games there are to play, but getting them to fork over $15 per month for a subscription fee is an even harder sell. Players have two different “costs” to consider-both the monthly fee and the amount of time they’ll need to play in order to make that expense worthwhile-and that’s pretty daunting for adults with families, full-time jobs, and other obligations.
So, why not ease the burden of entry by including World of Warcraft on Game Pass for PC? Microsoft’s continued push toward making Xbox its Game Pass division rather than a console division hasn’t exactly been subtle, and the idea of paying a separate $15 fee for one game when hundreds of others are included in Game Pass will be a hard sell once the acquisition is complete. The idea of paying one monthly fee, even with a slight premium for World of Warcraft access after, say, three months for no extra charge, is a whole lot more appealing.
Charging a subscription makes sense, of course, given the amount of ongoing development necessary for World of Warcraft compared to other static games that may have been untouched for years-subscription fees partially pay to keep the game going. But when you’re a company with nearly bottomless pockets that is looking to continue expanding the reach of its platform, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to take a hit on World of Warcraft. A premium “Game Pass for PC Plus World of Warcraft” tier could even help bridge the gap, offering a discounted rate for a subscription if players also become Game Pass members.
We’ve already seen plenty of people calling for World of Warcraft to come to Game Pass since the acquisition was announced earlier this week, but it’s not the current World of Warcraft players hoping for a discount who are the biggest factors here. Just like with the rest of Game Pass, it’s the casual player surfing through the service’s library who could really increase the game’s community size.
If you have a Game Pass membership, how many times have you scrolled down the pages of game tiles, found something that looked interesting, and downloaded it without so much as a second thought? How many times did that end up becoming the game you played for the next several weeks? The barrier of entry becomes almost nonexistent with Game Pass, and the potential for hobby-level play in World of Warcraft is extremely high. I should know, as prior to kicking the habit (it truly was an addiction for me, so I won’t be joining any newcomers this time), I played almost no other games for two years. I didn’t have the money for games other than WoW, and Game Pass didn’t exist yet to make it easier to explore other possibilities.
Now, all of this “bring World of Warcraft to Game Pass” talk sounds great, but there’s a limit: It only makes sense for the PC version. World of Warcraft has never come to consoles, and Microsoft’s acquisition might make it seem like the perfect time to bring the game to Xbox. But it would also come with its own financial costs to port the game, no guarantee that it’s a success like the PC version, and the challenge of making the game work together between console and PC. With PC players accounting for more than 1 billion people worldwide, why try to shoehorn the game onto another platform?
Luckily, Microsoft seems to understand that some games are just not supposed to be on a console. The Age of Empires series has seen a resurgence in recent years, including Age of Empires IV releasing in late 2021. But the game was only released for PC, because that’s where the game works.
Xbox Game Pass, as well as Game Pass for PC, have succeeded not just for the savings they offer players who might not otherwise buy full games, but for the ease of access they give us to try new experiences. Those who became longtime World of Warcraft players understand that just a little bit of time with the game can turn you into a long-term fan.