(Credit: Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft)

Microsoft built its empire on licensing Windows and Office to companies and individuals around the globe, but while this is lucrative, it can also be uneven. Companies -- and their financial stakeholders -- prefer it if cash flow is more predictable. One of the ways to do this is with a subscription service. Microsoft offers Office 365 in this vein, starting at $7 a month or $70 a year, and it's long charged Xbox consoles users a fee to access multiplayer servers.

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Last summer, Microsoft also added a product called the Xbox Game Pass. With this, gamers on Xbox consoles get access to 100+ games for $10 a month, like Netflix. You can download and play as many games as you like, as long as you keep that subscription active.

More recently, the company announced Surface All Access, where customers can get a Surface tablet/laptop, Office 365, and a few other odds and ends, starting at $25 a month. Granted, Surface All Access is actually an installment plan instead of a subscription; once you've made 24 payments, the device is yours to keep.

But it retains the company's growing trend of enticing users to pay a little bit over time, instead of a larger chunk of money up front. (You can also get the Xbox Console itself with the aptly named Xbox All Access.)

And apparently, Microsoft has been gratified by the response to these new programs, because Windows Central reports that its CEO Satya Nadella announced in a conference call that the company is bringing the Game Pass to Windows PCs.

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Nadella did not go into detail during the call, but there's still a lot to talk about.

Microsoft has been no stranger to bridging the gap between the Xbox and Windows ecosystem (though it would probably prefer you didn't bring up Games for Windows Live), as its "Play Anywhere" titles can be purchase on one of these platforms and played on both.

So far, that program has been largely restricted to games published by Microsoft itself, such as Forza Horizon and Gears of War. Adding the Xbox Game Pass to Windows would be a major step forward.

Yet with the PlayStation 4 reportedly continuing to outsell the Xbox One at a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio (the numbers are hard to pin down definitively because Microsoft took the unusual step of ceasing to report its sales numbers a few years ago), bold new steps may be critical to increase the install base and woo more developers.

In this console generation, the PlayStation 4's formidable success has been fueled in part by blockbuster exclusives like Spider-Man and God of War, while Xbox's own exclusive titles have been relatively thin on the ground, their in-house franchises have been looking increasingly long in the tooth.

We don't know if Microsoft will actually bring every Game Pass title to Windows 10, as there are licensing deals and technical hurdles that need to be worked out first. We don't even know when it will happen. But we can tell you that the mere announcement may shake things up for every company that's selling PC games online -- like Amazon, Steam, and Electronic Arts, all of whom have pretty deep pockets.


  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced in a company conference call that the Xbox Game Pass will be coming to Windows 10 PCs.
  • The Game Pass is a Netflix-like service where users can download from a library of about 100 games, for $10 a month.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.