Microsoft has offered Game Pass for years as a monthly subscription with popular games, accessible through PC, Xbox, and even cloud streaming. However, Microsoft is now switching up the formula with the release of Hi-Fi Rush.
Microsoft held an “Xbox & Bethesda Developer_Direct” event yesterday, showing off games in development from Microsoft-owned studios, like Minecraft Legends from Mojang Studios and Redfall from Arkane Austin. There was also a surprise game that had not been revealed or discussed previously: Hi-Fi Rush. It’s a rhythm-action game, where the environment, other characters, and your own attacks are synchronized to the beat of the music. I played the first hour last night, and I’m definitely having fun with it.
Putting the game itself aside for a moment, what’s interesting is how Microsoft — which owns ZeniMax, which owns developer Tango Gameworks — handled the game’s release. It’s not common at all for a game from a major developer to be announced and released on the same day. The initial announcement usually happens months, if not years, before a game is available. At some point before release, the publisher starts taking pre-orders, which can help development cross the finish line.
However, subscription services like Game Pass and PlayStation Plus Extra are changing that strategy. Microsoft has already been adding its new games to Game Pass on the same day they are released, but that was still usually months after a given game was first revealed, possibly after much of the initial excitement daded away. Hi-Fi Rush is available to purchase normally on PC and Xbox, but the release is clearly positioned to help boost Game Pass. If you were already paying for Game Pass, you learned about a cool new game and could play it almost immediately afterwards at no extra cost. It’s a much different way to learn about and enjoy games than what most of us are used to.
The experiment seems to have been a success, at least from the outside. Hi-Fi Rush was trending on social media platforms like Twitter for hours, as discussions about the game’s announcement evolved into sharing screenshots and recordings from the game itself. There are also over 30,000 people watching the game on Twitch as I write this, which isn’t bad at all for a game no one knew about until yesterday.
Could this be the start of a new trend in gaming? We’ll have to wait and see.