Subscriptions: Game developers moving toward subscriptions

This article will analyze the growing trend of game developers and publishers moving towards subscription models instead of one-time purchases. Examples: Apple Arcade, Google Stadia, Microsoft’s Game Pass (old, but now more aggressive than ever push towards subscription-only titles and removing one-time purchase options swifter than ever), Ubisoft , EA Play, PlayStation Now. Studios with a single game or franchise are also going the subscription route. Is this good? Bad? Subscriptions of the Game Pass, for example, have increased by millions in the last year. And it’s true that indie games, when they come to Game Pass, earn more than they could ever make solo. Xbox Game Pass is a unique case which will need its own section here. Instead of subscribing to a service that gives free delivery (like Amazon) or TV shows (like Netflix) – a game can be anywhere from 20 hours of fun for hardcore games or 1,000 hours of play and replays – how is it fair that you pay less than I do for the same game in this case? A headline: "GDC has released its annual State of the Industry survey of 4,000 developers, over one-fourth of which were concerned such models would devalue games." Another topic to cover is games-as-a-service (or more broadly tech-as-a-service) models being adopted by videogame publishers and developers. Even gaming hardware seems to be moving in that direction, with Nvidia providing subscription to RTX 30-series gaming capabilities instead of actually owning a video card. Starting from newspapers and magazines; then moving to TV shows, movies, and software; and now to games – subscriptions seem to be the way forward. But is it really better to have a monthly subscription to play games than to own the games and judging by the current pace of things, even renting your hardware and not owning it?

  • A couple of articles here in The Artifice have already explored similar problems (micro-transactions, in-app purchases, and yearly-releases) in the gaming world. The progressive increase of an economic model based on subscriptions in the video game business can be an interesting topic to explore, as long as it frames the phenomenon in larger and more meaningful terms than “good” or “bad.” The question “Is adopting the subscription model in videogames development good or bad?” needs to be reformulated. Good for whom? Bad for whom? It is certainly good for the business. It might be good or bad for consumers, depending on what they get from the deal. But and outstanding article about this topic would need a stronger and more daring approach. – T. Palomino 6 months ago

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