15 years ago, the forerunner to Xbox Game Pass changed gaming forever
Five games for the price of one.
Often regarded as one of the best years in gaming, 2007 was full of important releases including Super Mario Galaxy, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and BioShock. But in terms of sheer value, no game of 2007 tops The Orange Box, which just celebrated its 15th birthday.
Few game collections in the years since even come close to The Orange Box in terms of the amount of content available. The Orange Box — which includes Half-Life 2 and its expansions Episode One and Episode Two, along with Portal and Team Fortress 2 — paved the way for blockbuster game bundles, serving as a forerunner to subscription services like Xbox Game Pass.
The best deal in gaming
Each part of The Orange Box is worthy of discussion — whether it’s Half-Life 2 and its expansions’ dramatic storytelling, Team Fortress 2’s importance to the hero shooter genre, or Portal’s impact on character writing and puzzle games — it’s clear this collection is one for the ages. That’s why it’s unfathomable that Valve decided to only charge $60 for this package, which was, and still is, mindboggling.
Packages like these are almost non-existent, especially at that price point and at such high quality. Valve could have easily released each game individually to make more money, but instead, opted to get as many players on board as possible by offering tremendous bang for your buck.
And that’s exactly what Valve did. As of 2008, The Orange Box reportedly sold 3 million copies across PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. And that sales figure is likely much higher in 2022.
Reaching more players
Valve likely wanted to guarantee it would get $60 from every customer at once, rather than the possibility of earning more by selling each game à la carte. This is similar to the subscription-based model, which offers unlimited access to a product for a set monthly fee.
On paper, this model seems like it shouldn’t work, but evidently, it’s highly lucrative, as evidenced by Microsoft’s reported revenue of $2.9 billion from Xbox Game Pass in 2021.
But it’s not all about sales and revenue.
Releasing The Orange Box as a package also did wonders for Team Fortress 2, a competitive online hero shooter that surely reached more players than would have otherwise. In 2007, many players who bought The Orange Box solely for Half-Life 2 or Portal also gave Team Fortress a try, leading to a thriving community. Team Fortress 2 likely wouldn’t have reached as many players if not for being bundled in a package.
Lower barrier to entry
It’s easy to be cynical about certain business practices, but there’s a reason this particular model is so successful. It’s a win-win for businesses and consumers, as it allows companies to reach more players due to the low barrier to entry, while offering a tremendous amount of content.
In the case of The Orange Box, why buy one game for $60, when you could spend the same amount to get five? Much like The Orange Box, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription features a varied lineup of games for a low price.
It takes a certain kind of magic to make something like The Orange Box or Game Pass work, but when it does, it has a lasting impact on the industry at large. It’s unclear whether Microsoft looked to Valve’s famous collection when designing its subscription service, but both aim to reach as many players as possible through a compelling value proposition. Even if one or more of the titles in this collection isn’t for you, there’s likely a couple that catch your eye.
Valve left its mark on the industry with The Orange Box. This is a collection that, in many ways, feels like the precursor to gaming subscription services that put the consumer first. Gaming is an expensive hobby, but with compilations like this, companies have proven that it doesn’t always have to be.
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