Wednesday, September 06, 2023
I don’t know how many video games I have ever played. The best data point I have is about 150 games played on Steam. But I have been playing games on the PC long before Steam even existed, and on many other platforms before and besides that, so overall I can only say that I have played hundreds of games. What I do know is that there were only a handful of games which I have played for longer than 6 months, and most of those were MMORPGs. The overwhelming majority of games, especially single-player games, for me are a matter of weeks, at best a few months. Besides two idle games, where the playtime is falsified by me letting the game run in the background, my top 4 played games on Steam are Magic Duels, Baldur’s Gate 3, XCom 2, and Pathfinder Kingmaker, and of these only Magic Duels was played for more than 6 months consecutively. I have 184 hours played of Pathfinder Kingmaker, but as I play a lot when I get strongly engaged with a game, that just took me a little over a month.
Why would that be important? Because if you have similar play pattern like me, and you would like to play Starfield now, instead of waiting until it is half price in a year, subscribing to the Game Pass for PC for $10 a month is probably the better option than buying the game for $70 on Steam. The probability that you play Starfield for so long that the Game Pass subscription costs you more than the full Steam price is pretty low. And I don’t believe for a second that I am the only genius on the internet who managed to do that math.
I don’t know how many concurrent players Starfield will reach on Steam this weekend. But I’m pretty sure that somebody will look for this number and make a social media post or YouTube video showing how much lower the Starfield number is than the 875k record of Baldur’s Gate 3. Which would be rather unfair, because I am pretty sure a lot more PC gamers will be playing Starfield on Game Pass than there were PC gamers playing BG3 on GOG. I’d be really interested by how much Game Pass subscriber numbers went up, but some people (including me) already had that subscription, while others will subscribe for reasons other than Starfield. I don’t see any valid method to fairly compare sales numbers or player numbers between these two games, as the business models are too different.
One might be tempted to compare BG3 sales numbers on the PS5 with Starfield sales numbers on the XBox, especially since they release the same day. But as the PS5 sold nearly twice as many consoles as the XBox, the numbers again would be skewed. And this late in the console generation cycle the ability of the two games to sell systems would also be very hard to judge. Having said that, I am pretty confident that Microsoft is making money on Starfield via sales of consoles and Game Pass subscriptions, not only by selling the game to own. Starfield will make the whole games segment of Microsoft look better in their books at the end of the year, and that is probably a good thing. Especially if you are Phil Spencer, and would really like that Satya Nadella has forgotten about Redfall by the time the end of year bonuses are distributed at Microsoft.