Xbox Digital Direct

Xbox revolutionises console bundled games with Digital Direct – but will it let third-party publishers in on the party?

Xbox has just quietly announced a major change in how games are bundled with consoles, with a new system called Digital Direct, which could have far-reaching implications for marketing games to new console owners.

The new technology effectively removes pack-in codes from official console bundles. So instead of an Xbox One bundle coming with say 2 games, plus a month of Xbox Live Gold and a month of Xbox Game Pass, all those games and add-ons are instead assigned to the console and available to install from the dashboard on setup.

Microsoft doesn’t go into detail about how the system works, but it’s safe to presume that the Xbox’s serial number must be the key to the included content.

The advantage for consumers is that they no longer have to enter multiple lengthy codes to get the content, which makes the onboarding process much smoother.

“It means that unwanted bundled games cannot be sold on to others, cutting down on such trade and their impact on sales”

For Microsoft it means new owners are more likely to take up and try the trial period offers in the box, increasing the number of sign ups to such services. For the industry more generally, it means that unwanted bundled games cannot be sold on to others, cutting down on such trade and their impact on sales – which in turn makes bundling such games more attractive and less risky.

The content bundled with the Xbox will be assigned instead to the first user profile setup on the Xbox. Consumers can choose to redeem offers and software later if desired.

It’s a logical next step for the bundling of games and could potentially lead to a plethora of such offers included with a new console. We can easily see all the major free-to-play titles wanting to include offers for content on their games to entice new Xbox owners into their ecosystem.

With codes and cardboard slips banished, it will be up to Microsoft to police the amount of offers that come with a console, and the cost of getting onboard. Thankful, every download is a consumer-driven option, so an Xbox in 2021 shouldn’t end up feeling a bit like a Windows laptop in 2000 – packed with pre-installed rubbish.

Still, the marketing opportunities, and the ability to track the use of those offers is a tantalising new data mine for the platform.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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