Outriders, the new online co-op shooter-looter from Square Enix and People Can Fly, is coming to Xbox Game Pass at launch. This could be a risky move.
Game Pass is a powerful service for all kinds of games. Indies, singleplayer-only titles, and online games can benefit a lot from the massive exposure. Live games in particular can mesh well with the Game Pass subscription model and keep players stuck to the online network as they play--and pay--over time. But with great reward comes great risks.
Whether or not Outriders launching day one on Game Pass is risky comes down to a few basic things. Have the devs scaled Outriders so gamers won't consume all of the game's content during the free window? Is there a satisfying gameplay loop that adheres to the critical Engagement Cycle? Square Enix has two reasons to launch Outriders on Game Pass: To sell games and boost exposure.
The strategy here is pretty standard. Game Pass users can try Outriders for a set period, and then the game rotates out. Anyone who's invested time and wants to keep playing will have to buy it to continue. This plan is kind of like a longer-term direct-to-consumer Blockbuster rental. Game Pass users should get a 20% discount on the full game to incentivize play retention after rotation.
This rental period is a do-or-die moment for the game. There's lots of pressure here. The content has to be balanced just right so gamers have a reason to buy the game after it rotates out.
There's no reason to keep playing if A) there's not enough content, B) the progression loop isn't fun or satisfying, or C) basic features are mismatched and improperly scaled.
Since it doesn't have microtransactions, Outriders is a kind of anomaly among modern online co-op games. That technically means the game is more risky because the devs/Square Enix don't have fallback measures on revenues. At the same time, it also means they aren't restricted or bound by the pressures of justifying said mTX.
Despite no mTX, the game is still bound by the basic tenants of the Engagement Cycle, which include:
- Social Hooks
- Monetization (in this case it's macro-monetization, or full game sales, not micro-monetization)
It's absolutely imperative that People Can Fly and Square Enix do a good job not only achieving these points on day one, but maintaining them over time. As I've said before, online co-op/live games have to inhabit all three timelines at once: Past, present, and future.
Let's just hope Outriders doesn't follow the same mistakes as the Marvel's Avengers live game.
- > NEXT STORY: This hugely memorable indie game is coming to Game Pass tomorrow
- < PREVIOUS STORY: Xbox FPS Boost lowers resolution, not compatible with all games