Developers Rare and Dlala Studios just released Battletoads for PC and Xbox. This is the latest entry in the classic beat-’em-up series, but it’s also the first new Battletoads since the arcade game in 1994. And like other recent releases from Xbox Game Studios, the Netflix-like subscription service Game Pass is key to giving Microsoft the confidence to bring the radical amphibians back.
“I think it’s fair to say that Battletoads wouldn’t have been greenlit in a world where Xbox Game Pass didn’t exist,” Rare audience and brand strategy director Simon Prodger explained to GamesBeat. “Most franchises don’t leave 26 years between games. That’s a long time, and whatever fanbase Battletoads had back in the ’90s had become distributed and diluted. Bringing Battletoads back into that environment would have been tough, but Xbox Game Pass gave us an at-scale subscription service to launch into, where members are actively looking for new content to try.”
Game Pass subscribers end up trying 40% more games over more genres than people who still buy each of their games individually, according to Microsoft. And this changes the math on what kind of games make sense. It is a potential wasted opportunity for Microsoft to put resources into a Battletoads game if it needs to have certain expectations for a return on that investment. But with Game Pass, players are always looking for something new. And that mitigates some of the risk inherent in trying to bring something like Battletoads back.
“Xbox Game Pass was the perfect platform to reconnect a dormant franchise with old fans while introducing it to a whole new audience,” said Prodger.
In Games Pass, Battletoads is additive. That’s in contrast to it trying to compete for players’ limited resources as another game in the marketplace.
Fitting Battletoads to the Game Pass model
Game Pass may enable Microsoft to have confidence in making a new Battletoads, but does the business model influence the way designers approach their games? Rare thinks so — but it’s more about making a considerate experience for newcomers. That led to the introduction of difficulty settings, for example.
“I think having access to an audience willing to try new things empowers developers to experiment and be creative,” Prodger said. “I think this was important for a game like Battletoads, where Dlala wanted to bring their own ideas to the game without feeling too beholden to the past.”
Battletoads doesn’t have online multiplayer, and that’s definitely a knock against it. But Game Pass empowers a studio like Dlala to focus on making the couch co-op game that it wants. And that again comes back to knowing that you don’t need to convince families or friend groups to pay that upfront price for a product. Instead, they can get Game Pass for any number of reasons, and then they’ll find that it’s also a great way to discover games to play together as a group.
“There’s something really special about playing video games together in the same room and Xbox Game Pass is a must-have for families,” Prodger said. “We love the idea that fans of the original games will now be able to share Battletoads with their kids.”
Now, Rare and Dlala have the potential to create a new generation of Battletoads fans. But does that mean we’ll get more games? Rare isn’t saying.
“Battletoads was the result of various stars aligning,” Prodger said. “It wasn’t part of some grand plan. We don’t currently have any other plans for it — although we’ll see what the response is to the new game and how it performs.”