Xbox Game Pass may have hurt Outriders sales

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Remember Outriders? This cooperative multiplayer shooter from Polish developer People Can Fly came out back in April to polite acclaim, and after the company addressed some pernicious bugs, there wasn’t much else to say about it. The game aimed to be a looter-shooter while excising some of the genre’s more repetitive aspects, and it mostly succeeded. 

There was one other interesting circumstance regarding Outriders’ release, though: its day-one availability on Xbox Game Pass. Now, the devs have called into question whether that was a good or bad move.

The story came out of a People Can Fly investor briefing, as reported by IGN. In the briefing, CEO Sebastian Wojciechowski discussed Outriders’ profitability — or, potentially, its lack thereof:

“We don’t have any sales figures for Outriders,” he said (translated from Polish by Google). “We estimate it at between 2 and 3 million units and assumed that this was a result that would ensure profitability for this project.”

However, the game may not have sold as many copies as Wojciechowski estimated. Square Enix, the game’s publisher, has not paid People Can Fly any royalties. That suggests that Outriders is not yet profitable, as Square Enix has to pay its own operating costs before the money starts channeling back to the developer.

The interesting bit for Xbox Game Pass fans comes next:

“Perhaps it was caused by some elements of Square Enix’s sales policy, the details of which we do not know, such as partnerships concluded by the publisher with distribution platforms or entities offering Outriders as an addition to their products,” Wojciechowski said.

Later on, the briefing states that “on the day of its premiere, the game was offered ‘for free’ to subscribers of the Xbox Game Pass service.”

To be crystal clear, neither People Can Fly nor Wojciechowski explicitly blamed Xbox Game Pass for Outriders’ hazy sales figures. But Wojciechowski did allude to it, and the briefing mentioned it explicitly. Whatever deal Square Enix and Microsoft came to regarding Outriders on Game Pass, it may not have generated the kind of profits that People Can Fly expected.

Of course, assuming that Outriders hasn’t reached profitability yet, pinning the whole thing on Xbox Game Pass may be premature. We don’t know how many people bought Outriders outright; we don’t know how many people played it on Game Pass; we don’t know how many Game Pass players would have bought it, had the game not been available on Microsoft’s subscription service.

Still, Outriders was the first major third-party title with day-one availability on Xbox Game Pass. From what we can tell, it doesn’t seem to have paid off for the developer.

Whether this incident becomes an outlier or a trend, we’ll have to wait and find out. Xbox Game Pass has a fair amount of third-party games with day-one availability planned for later this year.  

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.