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The Ascent generated $5 million in revenue and topped the Steam global sales chart over its opening weekend. That’s according to publisher Curve Digital, which is hyping up the indie hit as a true “triple-A competitor.” That success is even more impressive considering many players could get the game at no additional cost through Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service on console, PC, and the cloud.

But the reality is that The Ascent is hardly an outlier in terms of Game Pass releases finding success outside of that Xbox service. Like other games, developer Neon Giant’s action role-playing shooter probably owes some of its success to Game Pass’s network effect.

For Curve, The Ascent represents years of efforts paying off.

“The Ascent is the first game out of Curve where our new team has been able to substantially make their mark, working closely with the developer and our platform partners,” Curve chief executive officer John Clark said. “This success is the result of a genuine team effort throughout the company, the arrival of new leadership and talent and is truly reflective of our new approach of being developer and player focused in all that we do.”

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And Curve’s work with Neon Giant likely helped maximize the success The Ascent is seeing. But the game is also following a pattern that we’ve seen in other Xbox Game Pass releases like People Can Fly’s Outriders. Specifically, while The Ascent is available for a low monthly fee alongside hundreds of other games, it is still selling well. And Microsoft has repeatedly said it has seen this with Game Pass releases.

Nothing influences a gamer like other gamers

The Game Pass sales bump seems counter-intuitive, but a game like The Ascent plays right into it. And that’s due to the aforementioned network effect. Gamers often spend a lot of time in close-knit communities on platforms like Discord. That means when a game like The Ascent comes along, a lot of people start talking about it because of Game Pass. That word of mouth can spread quickly.

Playing games with friends is important to a lot of people. Even if a game is single-player, many people don’t want to miss out on the conversation. But something like The Ascent, which emphasizes cooperative play, is even more well-suited to take advantage of these interpersonal networks. If, for some reason, you don’t want Game Pass, you’re still more likely to purchase The Ascent so that you’re not the member of your normal crew to miss out on a game night.

This is the power of Game Pass, and it’s something that small studios can wield to their benefit.

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