Gaming Subscription Services: The Stealth Revolution?

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#1 Edited by Gundato (330 posts) -

So we all have our opinions on Stadia and xcloud (?) but I think everyone agrees that it is going to have a significant impact on the game industry.

But I am catching up on the MS e3 conference (that is a weird sentence) and I keep seeing cool games where I can buy it OR give MS 15 bucks a month or whatever. Similarly, I was really in the mood for a multiplayer FPS earlier today and was seriously debating buying BF5 or just subscribing to EA's service for a month.

And that got me thinking. I have a Humble Monthly subscription that I'll probably let lapse. I have Twitch Prime from Amazon Prime but I'll likely never use it for anything other than F2P DLC. PS+ and XBOX Live are pretty much accepted costs (40-ish bucks a year to not play anything other than Dark Souls online. Yay?). And when I eventually get around to reformatting my PC to fix the MS Store I can totally see myself subscribing to Game Pass for the latest Obsidian games

Did we acknowledge the actual "netflix for games" while we were all freaking out about not owning our games because of streaming. Right now I think I still want to buy my games, but I also remember when I wanted to buy my own DVDs. In even a few months (or days, if I keep this FPS itch) I can see myself just subscribing to a service instead. Why pay 60 bucks for Outer Worlds now or 30 bucks a month later when I can just pay 15 bucks a month for that and a bunch of other stuff I might otherwise never give a shot? I doubt I'll play BF5 for more than two months (maybe two weeks) and a lot of new releases are very much "fun as an experience" that I'll never repeat.

Were we all tricked in to accepting this dark future? And is it actually a dark future? It probably is, but I kind of want to embrace it so I am going to pretend it isn't.

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#2 Edited by ripelivejam (13226 posts) -

I sense a shitton of jobs being rendered obsolete in the coming years. Enjoy all the disenfranchised workforce, world!

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#3 Posted by AlexW00d (7572 posts) -

I sense a shitton of jobs being rendered obsolete in the coming years. Enjoy all the disenfranchised workforce, world!

That's how the worlds worked forever dude. Shit gets made obsolete but the thing making it obsolete creates even more jobs

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#4 Posted by stantongrouse (236 posts) -

The positives for me about most of these services is you can stop them at any point which used to be the sting in the tale of most entertainment subscription models previously. And, not to be the eco warrior and all that, but these services must surely be eating into the massive overuse of plastics and packaging games are notoriously bad for. (Sorry, but I'm the idiot who is always picking up all the discarded packets, sleeves and even old disks from the road our CEX is on and it pees me off).

I've a Humble sub and I just picked up the Game Pass for PC beta which I think will probably be enough to keep me more than happy without really needed much else.

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#5 Posted by Jesus_Phish (3897 posts) -

@gundato: I don't think it's a dark future. Until you get to a point where you end up with a Netflix like model where there's streaming content that you can only get via the service, then it's not a dark future.

At the moment we don't have that. There's nothing available on Xbox Game Pass that you cannot give somebody money so that you own it forever, regardless of something like XGP going away in the future. But with Netflix, the only way to watch Making a Murderer, is to pay them and stream it. There is no box set you can buy, no digital edition etc. The same with Spotify. Sure less people are buying albums, but I can still buy an album if I want instead of paying Spotify to let me stream it for a month.

I think XGP is a great value service for demoing games or trying out some things you know you don't think are worth 60, 30 or even 15 bucks for by themselves. It's like having Blockbuster video back. You can try out Outer Wilds before you buy it. Or maybe you try it and finish it in a month and now you don't need to buy it.

Demos are the one thing that games really, really lack. Before XGP the best we had was we could give Steam money (that we could never get back), play a game for up to two hours (which might not be nearly enough time) and if we didn't like it, ask for a refund.

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#6 Posted by Gundato (330 posts) -

@jesus_phish: That is exactly why I think this kind of just snuck past all of us

Games like Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 are already in the "you probably shouldn't actually buy this" territory. But if we don't start having game pass exclusives within the next three years then MS have dropped the ball (again).

Because Netflix didn't start out with original programming. They started out as a more convenient version of blockbuster. That eventually became a much cheaper version of blockbuster and, shortly after that, the "smart" way to watch new movies (admittedly, HBO was that for people who could afford HBO back in the day). Why buy a copy of Point Break or the complete collection of Friends when you can watch Keanu's romance with Swazey and everyone pick on Ross any time you want?

The original programming came when they started having to compete with Hulu and other services (I am sure there are a few... uhm, amazon prime?).

And I already see/"feel" this happening with games. Some of my favorite games of the past year or so have very much been "play it once and never again". Just this past month I had a blast with Observation and the first few hours of Outer Wilds. And I codified my thoughts on Bloodborne after finally playing Sekiro. I don't regret any of those purchases (not even Sekiro) as I grabbed them on sale.

But if I had paid 15 bucks for all three AND been able to justify Mordhau while it was still somewhat newbie friendly? Now we start getting in to netflix territory. I paid for a month or two of HBO to watch Game of Thrones and probably Chernobyl and think that is fine. I have an ongoing subscription to Funimation because I find it to be a great way to watch new to me anime that I would otherwise ignore (or in the case of Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka, avoid out of fear of being called a pedo).

I don't think we are there just yet. But I also think MS is getting dangerously close to having that "no brainer" subscription service. And I am both excited and terrified of what that will mean for gaming. Streaming at least has the concerns of bandwidth (although Bethesda totally fixed that. They have a patent and everything!). Gaming as a whole realized digital distribution isn't too horrible years ago and the vast majority of folk aren't going to hit their bandwidth caps unless they play a LOT of Ubi games in a single month.

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#7 Posted by tds418 (509 posts) -

I don't know what the business implications in the future are, but at the moment Game Pass Ultimate is an awesome deal. I was excited about the announcements regarding it during the conference and immediately converted my existing Gold/GP subscription to an ultimate sub.

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#8 Posted by fisk0 (6952 posts) -

While GOG's totally DRM free, offline playable model is my preference, I absolutely think subscription services are the only honest ways to handle games-as-a-service titles. Buying Destiny, Rainbow Six Siege, Elite: Dangerous or Black Ops IIII doesn't make any sense at all to me, since while you may get a physical disc, you don't actually own the product, only the privilege of getting access for it for as long as the publisher thinks it's worth their time to keep the servers up.

I think Origin Access is an excellent service for the games that make no sense being sold as separate products, but they're no substitute for buying the games that you can actually buy, own and play at your own terms.

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#9 Posted by AHiFi (105 posts) -

@gundato said:

And that got me thinking. I have a Humble Monthly subscription that I'll probably let lapse. I have Twitch Prime from Amazon Prime but I'll likely never use it for anything other than F2P DLC. PS+ and XBOX Live are pretty much accepted costs (40-ish bucks a year to not play anything other than Dark Souls online. Yay?). And when I eventually get around to reformatting my PC to fix the MS Store I can totally see myself subscribing to Game Pass for the latest Obsidian games

Well, I've got some good news for you if you already have Gold...

Microsoft are basically converting your remaining Gold subscription (up to 36 months) into Game Pass Ultimate for a $1/£1 right now. It's a shockingly good deal that the press seem to have mostly skipped over - instead reporting that you get the first month for £1/$1. This is true, but not the real story - I imagine because Microsoft didn't advertise it in their press release.

I had a year and a half left of Gold, I paid for a 12-month gold card, added the code onto my account so that I had a subscription until October 2021, paid the nominal £1 and now I have Ultimate Game Pass until November 2021. Basically, I paid roughly £100 (for the 2 and a half years of subscription + the nominal £1) to get just under £400 worth of supposed value (2 and a half years of Game Pass Ultimate).

Not many people seem to be talking about it - but it's one of the best gaming deals I've seen in a long time, especially if you've been holding out on this 'dark future' (which I had been). But you do need to add the time to your subscription BEFORE you make the $1 purchase - as it makes the 1:1 conversion after the purchase - so you can't just add it on afterwards.

Ultimate includes Gold, console Game Pass and PC game pass - making this a hellavu deal that, I'm positive, is to make the skeptics see the true value of Game Pass. And it worked for me (for now at least). I'm one of those skeptics. However, after watching the MS conference, and seeing a lot that I want to try out coming to the service, I don't regret it. I literally just paid £1 to access Game Pass, and some extra money to extend a service that I have subscribed to for 15 years anyway - and will, hopefully, subscribe to for 15 more years.

You can cancel and go back to Gold after the <36 months - which, right now, I would do unless they convince me that the £10.99/$14.99 is worth it over buying the games that I like from their service and not being at their whim. But, given that I am at their whim with my increasingly digital purchasing patterns anyway, this may be an irrelevant point.

Here's the link (should redirect you to your country's site if not in the US): https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/xbox-game-pass-ultimate/cfq7ttc0khs0?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab

If you click the 'Purchase' button (don't worry, there's still another step), it'll explain there that it will convert up to 36 months of Gold and/or Game Pass to Ultimate Game Pass.

Honestly, when I saw this, I thought someone had made it up - but it's an amazing deal if you have Gold down as a default yearly payment that you make anyway.

If I'm being hoodwinked into this crappy subscription model future, at least I can try it out for a significant period of time for next to no money before I decide if it's worth it.

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#10 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4498 posts) -

On the consumer's side , so far it seems like a good deal.

On the business side, i feel like it takes time to see if this is a good thing. I can easily see it turn into this

1. Subscription service gets super popular, every dev wants to be part of a subscription service, amount of individual game sales take a nosedive . There's a lot of money to be spread around to the participating publishers & studio's based on the sheer amount of subscribers that the service has.

2. The audience is mostly in on a subscription service. Not being part of one means your game won't sell well. Your small indiegame doesn't generate much revenue because the amount of streams it will get on a gamepass is a blip on the radar compared to the other (AAA) games available on the service. But not being part of a service doesn't pay the bills neither. So you need to put your game out there, make it as easily available as you can, while sucking up the fact that your streaming revenue will be painfully low. 'The Spotify problem'

3. As a subscription service gains more and more users, the big publishers feel like they have a strong enough library to start their own subscription service. After all, the cut they get gets smaller & smaller as the money has to be spread over more & more games that are available on the service. Why should they use their valuable assets to give Microsoft / google a boost when they can build something for themselves based on these strong assets?

4. The subscriber base gets scattered among a bunch of smaller services. The potential amount of subscribers per service is lower compared to 1 & 2. There's hardly a profit to be made for smaller games because the subscription base is so much smaller than it used to be. There might be a new cycle of people turning away from subscriptions.

I also wonder what this will do to bad games. Like if Bubsy launches a game now, it will probably not sell very well and the company will realize that it's not a very good game. But what if it's part of gamepass and due to the sheer amount of subscribers, a bunch of people pop in to bubsy for an hour or two to just see what the hell this hellish thing is. Is suddenly this bad game somewhat of a success? Will games receive the right feedback when the sheer hugeness of the subscriber's base can still make a bad game be a success just by virtue of being on this service? I can already see Battletoads being regarded as a bad game, yet having millions of streams because people are paying for the gamepass anyways. Suddenly it's 2028 and Battletoads 4 gets launched while we all groan.

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#11 Posted by Demoskinos (17460 posts) -

I think cloud gaming is the future. I've already given up physical media so like I'm not sure why I should be somehow so dearly tied to the concept of local installs of games. The cloud stuff brings so many advantages.

1. No cheating

2. No waiting for patches or downloads.

3. Accessibility.

4. Portability

Now obviously I'd say it probably does pay to be skeptical a bit but a few things here.

1. Modern streaming tech works better than you'd think

2. The industry is pushing in this direction as a whole.

3. Even with data caps being a concern next gen games are going to easily hit 100GB per download as more native 4k content is being consumed.

So I don't think this is going away. Personally. I've embraced the cloud future already. Been checking out PS Now for the last few months and it actually works pretty well. I've also got the stadia founders edition pre-ordered and plan to play Doom Eternal on it this fall.

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#12 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7649 posts) -

Expect games on a streaming service that are served up at $ a month to also include having to pay for even more "DLC in-game coins". You won't be playing $15 a month or $60 for the full game + you will be paying $15 or $60 + buying in-game currency. In fact, expect steaming games to double down on paying for in-game currency for even more things.

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#14 Posted by besighyawn (19 posts) -

Just subbed to the xbox ultimate game pass with that $1 deal for the next 3 years so I'll have plenty of time to see if enjoy the model. However, if the future is every big publisher having their own subscription services, I probably wouldn't do that unless prices go down. Already have way too many tv/movie subs as it is, don't want to go down that route for games for now

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#15 Posted by aerithlives (37 posts) -

Not interested in digital streaming / subscription services and I'm sure most agree. I definitely wouldn't trust Google or Microsoft to own the back end, that's for damn sure.