What Do Gaming Subscription Services mean for the Games Industry?

Games have been around longer than humans can remember. Board games and sports have been played in civilizations for many years. These games were born from the people’s desire to entertain themselves. Now with advances in technology, we are able to play more games at more times.

Entertainment and technology have become synonymous with games. Games are on every computer and mobile phone, and sometimes they are pre-installed so that you have something to do with the device right out of the box. With games becoming so crucial in everyday human life, what comes next for gaming?

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Games for the Masses.

I’m playing a game right now as I write this article because my phone gives me access to games all the time. Mobile games have become the top gaming market for most game developers just because of one thing, phones are everywhere! They are easily accessible, and they keep us in touch with the world around us. As of 2017, mobile games have generated 40.6 billion dollars in revenue. This means that games aren’t going away, and there will be more coming.

At GDC 2019, Google announced its new service, Stadia. The new branch of Google is looking to bring gaming to the masses and how do they plan to do that? By putting games on the computer, tv, tablet, and phone that you already own.

“This idea is amazing,” you might say “but how does it work?”

Well, Google is going to put their servers to the test and run all of these games directly on their own systems and stream them to you via the almighty internet.

Streaming video games through the internet might seem like it would be a great idea, and I am not going to pretend like I understand all of the backend technical stuff because I am definitely not a networking engineer. One question I can ask is: “What about people with terrible internet connections and unstable connections?” I want to know more about Stadia’s recommended internet settings and if they will be available to everyone that is even able to get internet.

Google’s Stadia sounds fantastic, but it is still only theory. I am sure that Google will explain their recommended internet speeds before Stadia’s launch, but will it vary by the game? There are still plenty of questions left unanswered.

What will Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo do about their new competition?

Stadia is going to take over all of our devices, but surely they can’t take over our PlayStation 4s, Xbox Ones, or our Nintendo Switches. Their hardware will remain a product of these massive video game companies but do PlayStation, Microsoft, and Nintendo want to play ball with other companies? Google explained that they are open to crossplay between these companies during their GDC conference, but no one has responded to Google, yet.

Let’s look at each company through their own lense.

Nintendo is by no means a leader in the hardware market right now. Super Mario’s company has come back from the brink many times with their unique games and family-friendly ideas. The Nintendo Switch has sold more than 8.7 million units since its initial launch and has helped sustain Nintendo’s place as a video game company. Nintendo has acknowledged that they are not the powerhouse console and has decided to become a gaming company that goes everywhere with you. Streaming games to a mobile gaming console may not be the best idea for a device with a wifi only connection. Google might want Nintendo’s games, but how will Nintendo benefit from that agreement?

Microsoft is in an awkward place right now. They have the most robust gaming hardware on the market right now. Not only have they sold more than 40 Million units of Xbox One consoles, but they also ship the number one PC software, Microsoft Windows. Just about every game is represented on Microsoft’s gaming platforms. What other games do they need? Considering that the Xbox One had a rough start, Microsoft can use all the help they can get. They have already teamed up with other companies and are bringing Xbox Live to other platforms, and they have released their own subscription gaming service called Game Pass. I think it may be in Xbox's best interest to allow other companies on their hardware, but that may also shoot themselves in the foot if they wish to sell more Xbox consoles and promote their Game Pass.

Sony is riding a console high right now. Sony has sold 91 million PlayStation consoles as of January 2019. With all of those gamers in PlayStation’s pocket, why would they work with any other company? In a perfect world, all games would be available to everyone, but I don’t know if the company would just give up their leading position. I would say that Sony is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

On the one hand, if Sony doesn’t work with other companies, they will be considered jerks for not participating, but on the other hand, how do they make money as a company if they allow their games to be playable on different hardware? Another problem that Sony will have to look at is that they also have a gaming subscription called PlayStation Now. Sony wants you to stream their games already, especially, the titles that are not available natively on the PS4.

Are There Too Many Subscriptions?

Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, Google Stadia, and now we can add Apple Arcade to the gaming subscription mix. There are a lot of services, and it is too early to say who will be the best subscription. As a gamer and a consumer, we should be happy that all of these companies are competing to allow us to play more, but right now I’m a little flustered. What games do I want to play more? Who will have the best games? Which services will be the cheapest option and on what devices can I play those games?

What Do We Need from a Gaming Subscription?

Right now we have subscriptions for all types of media and applications. Netflix is the best example of a good subscription to have right now, and there’s a reason why they have done so well. They are a service that can be played on just about any device. Netflix has fast playback on most network connections. They have an extensive library of movies and shows on the service, and they are relatively inexpensive considering they offer users several different tiers of subscription.

Gaming Subscriptions should be looking at the Netflix model for inspiration. Users want a fast and stable experience. We want a large selection of games, and we want good games. We want freedom in where we play and how we play games. If one of these gaming services can deliver something close to what was just stated, we will have a clear winner in the coming years.

Right now is a time to wait and see what service can deliver all of the goods that they are promising. Leave it to the reviewers and the journalists to start talking about which subscription offers the most game for your buck because, at the end of the day, we will always play games like, Patty Cake, for free.