Netflix and Xbox Game Pass: Are They the Same Thing?

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read
Netflix and Xbox Game Pass: Are They the Same Thing?

Microsoft announced they are releasing their Project xCloud as a new feature in Xbox Game Pass on September 15. This will be available on Android, but not iOS (for now, at least). While I don't want to get into whether Apple should allow this or not, I did want to address the "how is this different from Netflix?" question I've seen thrown out a lot.

Not that it needs an introduction, but Netflix is a subscription service that gives you access to a large library of video content. You pay a monthly fee to Netflix (via their website, not via IAP) and that gives you access to everything they produce, past, present, and future. When  a new movie or show is added to Netflix, it doesn't require them to update their app because the content lives online.

Xbox Game Pass is a monthly subscription service that you pay for, and it gives you access to play a bunch of games for free on your Xbox or PC today, and in a month it will allow you to stream those games to an Android phone or tablet. The games are physically stored in the cloud and they are streamed to your local device. Like Netflix, as Microsoft adds or removes content, no app updates will be required because of course, nothing is running on the local device.

To my eyes, these are the same thing. You're paying a subscription fee to a third party, that party provides a list of content to the user that's streamed to their device, and that content is dynamic and changes over time.

It's unclear to me how in-app purchases will work with these streamed games. Currently, Game Pass users get most base games for free, but you can pay for expansions to get more content for those games. Also, as far as I know, there are no consumable IAPs in Game Pass games the likes of something like Candy Crush that we have on mobile (if I'm wrong here, let me know what games do it so I can update this article). But even if this carries over the streamed games, how is this different from Disney+ allowing you to pay $30 to add Mulan to your library?

I guess this is a "change my mind" post because I'm really failing to understand how Game Pass is any different from Netflix or Disney+ besides being newer.

On another note, Stadia is brought up as well, but I think Stadia is a different situation. Unlike Game Pass, Stadia makes you buy your own games and then only those games are available on your account. You get the occasional free game, but I think this is a very different business model, so it's not as clear as I think Game Pass is.