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Forza Horizon 4 is a Huge Success – Proving that Gamepass Works

More than 24 million people have played Forza Horizon 4, making it one of the most successful racing games of all time. And you didn’t have to pay a penny for it.


Gamepass allowed you access to the game – day one – without paying a penny extra than your subscription.

An overwhelming amount of people decided to do so anyway. Even at £54.99, it’s still in the top ten on Steam a week after launch.

This proves without a doubt that the Gamepass concept is working well, and the impact that could have on The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Halo and other established franchises could be massive.

For(za) the Players

The last Gran Turismo game shipped eight million copies – not a bad result by any means, but a lot less than when the franchise was at its peak. More gamers exist today than in the PS2/PS3 era and titles are more accessible than ever, and yet Gran Turismo 4 and 5 both shipped more than 17 million units.


More recent entries have dropped dramatically.

Forza Horizon 4 is unstoppable. It had 24m players by last November, and that number is probably closer to 30m now.

You can’t directly compare these two things, because one has that Gamepass and PC factor. What we can say is there’s every chance more people will play Forza Horizon 4 than the most successful Gran Turismo of all time, on the most successful console of all time. If that’s a metric you want to use, it’s an awesome achievement, but it doesn’t really say much beyond that.

Except one thing: Microsoft’s plans are paying off. They might not be making $60 on each sale (and it would be naive, generous or disingenuous to suggest any successful game does), but factor in recurring subscriptions, DLC and microtransactions, and Forza Horizon 4 has been well worth releasing on Gamepass. By looking at bums on seats alone, there are developers that would kill for that amount of attention.

There’s a lot you can do with 24m players.

The Future of Xbox

Forza was an awesome game, but it’s still a racing sim. It’s a genre title, and whatever you do, there will always be people who hate genre titles. “Third person action” can mean so many things, “racing” means one thing.


Of those 24 million players, how many absolutely knew they hated the idea of racing games? How many went into it knowing it wasn’t for them? I imagine there were some – free access is a hell of an attraction. But was it a significant amount? Probably not.

How many people are going to jump into a more accessible genre? Even if you factor in PlayStation, without Gamepass, Starfield probably wouldn’t reach as many people as it otherwise would. A new IP could hit 24 million players or even more, and that’s incredible.

What about Fallout? What about The Elder Scrolls? These are huge once-in-a-generation release (if that). The figures are going to be higher than ever, even though it cuts off one console.

Forza Horizon 4 is a Huge Success – Proving that Gamepass Works – Conclusion

Forza Horizon is a great sign of things to come. It proves the skyhigh player numbers of yesteryear are in no way a thing of the past – relegated to games like Call of Duty or Fortnite.

We can quibble about what that really means for revenue. It’s still early days for Gamepass – if it its 100 million subscribers it’s going to be massively profitable however you look at it.

But at this point we can say this is an idea that’s working, for Xbox, for developers and for players.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott