Gears 5is a big game in a few different ways. It's big in that it's robust, packed with more content and modes than ever before. It's big in that it's important, the latest entry in one of Xbox's flagship series. And, it's big in that it's popular, expected dividends after the original Gears trilogy helped shape the direction of modern triple-A shooters.
Today, Microsoft announced that Gears 5 had the best launch of any of Xbox's first-party games during the Xbox One generation. The first week attracted more than three million players. That's more than double Gears of War 4's debut. You have to go back to Halo 4 in 2012 to find an Xbox Game Studios title that exceeded three million players during its first week. Also, Gears 5's PC player count is nearly triple that of Gears of War 4's.
Gaudy, yes -- but all of this is expected rather than extraordinary. Gears 5 is the crown jewel of Xbox Game Pass in 2019, the absolute most popular and anticipated game that people can play at launch because of a $10 subscription. Gears of War 4 and Halo 4 didn't have that luxury. They relied on $60 one-time purchases, whereas the lion's share of Gears 5's player base presumably comes from Xbox Game Pass. (And, Gears 5 coming to Steam plays some sort of role in this success story.)
Microsoft is likely to continue advertising its accomplishments through raw player counts without ever divulging actual sales or number of Xbox Game Pass downloads. These figures will always look impressive when compared to pre-Xbox Game Pass numbers. Records will continue to be broken -- although, Gears 5 might not be surpassed until Halo Infinite arrives. This is the ecosystem of Xbox games now. It all rings sort of hollow, but that's fine. These triumphs speak less to the quality of any individual game, and more to the tremendous value of Xbox Game Pass as this subscription service becomes increasingly essential for Xbox owners.