Gaming Services Are Getting Out of Control
We all knew that once these gaming publishers and developers started to get behind the phrase “Gaming As A Service” that things would get out of hand. It’s a similar issue being caused by all the television channels that are now all starting their own subscription-based services. Instead of one unified service, each one is carving out their own, and they’re all competing with each other around the same price. Much like the video game crash in the past, we live through another if things keep heading in this direction. Even more so when you consider that 99.9% of them want a digital-only future.
The perfect example of this potential crash really comes together when you take Google Stadia into mind. Google wants you to pay $10 a month for the opportunity to stream games at 4K and 60 FPS. You’ll still have to buy $60 games separately. If you don’t want to pay for each game individually, some companies will have services of their own. Ubisoft is one of these companies who offers a subscription-based service to get access to their games at $15 a month. EA also has its own version, called EA Origin Access Premier, and it also costs $15. Xbox has their own version, PlayStation has theirs, and even graphic card companies have their own version, like Nvidia.
Oh, and cellphones aren’t any better. Apple just released Apple Arcade for $5, EA is working on their own mobile version, and even Google is making their own phone-based subscription service. Why isn’t this new Google one, called Play Pass, just included with Google Stadia? It makes zero sense for them to make an additional, separate, service for phones. The same with EA. This doesn’t even include EA and others making their own cloud gaming services too. We’re going to reach a point where, to get the complete gaming experience, you’ll have to subscribe to several different services.
What if independent developers decided to have their own services too? What if, to play the next Hotline Miami, you have to subscribe to a service from Dennaton Games? Then, what if, to play it on your platform of choice you had to subscribe to that platform’s service? You see how out of control these can all get? Maybe I’m jumping the gun but believe me if they could, they would. This is the same issue that television channels are having, and if things aren’t figured out, it’ll all collapse.
Services like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now make the most sense out of all of them. Both Sony and Microsoft have a strong first-party lineup that can carry their services without the need for third-party and indie games. Those just become an added bonus to those services. All these other services don’t have this foundation and are at a disadvantage. Stadia’s whole selling point is the ability to play games without downloads and installs, but you still have to buy the games, and if Google cancels the service like they have a history of doing, you won’t keep your games.
If it were up to me, there wouldn’t be any services. People would just buy the game they want and play it on that respective platform. I know, what a weird concept. A digital future is for certain; there is no escaping that. Publishers and developers make more money through digital distribution than they do through retail. Until then, however, what needs to be figured out is how this future will be most effective. Gamers want to own their games and not have to be subscribed to a bunch of services. Publishers and developers want players to stay engaged to their games and committed to them for as long as possible. Stadia, unfortunately, isn’t the future.
Looking at the PC side of things, Steam seems to be the only platform that could take a subscription service model and make it work. You’d also be able to download your games. On the phone side of things, Apple Arcade seems primed to be a good service. It has exclusives, games can be downloaded, and it works across all their devices, so you’re not locked to only your phone. Ubisoft’s service is probably the best of both worlds from a third-party perspective. Much like Xbox Game Pass, you can either subscribe to their service and have unlimited access to their games or simply buy your copy on whatever platform you want.
I’ve addressed my concerns with all of these services and the few companies I feel do it right but, to be honest, I’m not a fan of these services. I like owning my games physically, but I also see the advantages digital downloads offer. Technology is unpredictable, and a digital future seems inevitable, and that’s fine, gamers just want to own their games. If we could lessen all the services out there, every company will be more successful and gamers wouldn’t feel as if their money was being sucked dry. Wherever the industry goes, gamers will be vocal and will make sure these companies do right by them.