Today’s era is marked by rapidly improving technology. The gaming industry is a prime example of this change. Each year new and improved gaming-specific hardware is launched, which adds to the playing experience in one way or another. This hardware ranges from better graphic cards and processors to more responsive keyboards and mouse. New games are also launched each year that can take advantage of these improved specs to give a smoother video game experience.
However, the hottest trend in gaming has nothing to do with hardware updates- it has to do with subscription-based gaming. So, what is subscription-based gaming, and why is everyone so pumped for it to become mainstream? Let’s find out.
What is Subscription-Based Gaming?
I’m sure everyone is aware of the streaming service Netflix. Netflix recognized that people might not want to buy a single movie and keep it forever. However, they would sign on to pay a monthly fee that gives then access to hundreds of TV shows and movies. In this way, Netflix may not earn much per film, but as long as they have exciting content, they have a steady stream of revenue from one person. Multiply that with millions of subscribers, and you have a multi-billion-dollar business model.
Spotify follows a similar model, but instead of movies, it offers a wide array of songs. Many companies, including giants like Apple, now recognize the benefits of subscription-based models and are implementing it for a wide variety of services such as movies, music, news, and even gaming.
Subscription-based gaming, like all other such services, work via the use of cloud computing. Cloud refers to data stored on remote physical or virtual servers. This data (i.e., video or audio content and even games) can be accessed by subscribers of the service over the internet.
With Google’s ‘Stadia’ on its way to hit the markets, gamers are holding their breath in anticipation. However, while Google’s take on this concept is the most interesting, it isn’t the first. Services such as PlayStation Now for Sony PlayStation and the cheap, mobile browser gaming service Unlimited Gamez Mo already exist.
Low Initial Investment:
Every new laptop or console brings with it significant improvements. This allows games to run at higher resolutions and frame rates. However, each successive upgrade comes with a higher price tag. Consoles cost around 300 to 400 dollars, but for the best gaming experience, one must invest thousands of dollars for a gaming PC. On top of that, each game costs 60 to over 100 dollars. This high ‘buy-in’ deters a lot of potential gamers.
With subscriptions, the most a gamer needs to invest in would be a controller- that too is optional. Other than this, any device that can access the internet should work (although some services only work on particular devices, e.g., PlayStation NOW). This means for the low price of 10-15 dollars, you can have a seat at the table and start playing.
Sometimes one buys a game that they don’t like. But if you don’t, you’re out of luck because you wasted about 60 dollars and now, you’re stuck with it. The best part of a subscription is that you can cancel anytime. If you don’t like the collection, you aren’t going to be wasting money if you unsubscribe.
Large Game Library:
Just like gaming consoles and PCs, the games themselves are getting more and more expensive by the day. A standard version of a game these days costs around 60 dollars with prices going as high as a hundred dollars if not more. One needs to contemplate and pick which games they can afford to buy each year.
Perhaps the best part of subscription gaming is that instead of having to dish out several hundred dollars on games, you can have access to a wide array of them for a nominal fee. You no longer have to go through the dilemma of picking and choosing. Never again do you have to worry about missing out on any games.
Not only that, because of the versatility of playing platform, you have access to all of these games anywhere you go. That too, without having to carry a single physical CD or even a console for that matter.
Easier Game Development:
Game developers face constant dilemmas. Should they introduce a new game mode, or improve the old one? Should they add a new character or not? Which part of their game is the most popular and why? Which part isn’t working out and the reasons behind it?
Unless these developers sit down with each player, they would never know the answer to all these questions. However, cloud gaming expedites the process considerably. Since the player must be connected to the servers at all times, the developers can gather a lot of valuable data using player behavior and patterns. Which game mode are players playing? How long are they playing for? What character, car, weapon, map, etc. are they choosing? Is the game crashing? If so, why and when?
As this data is continually flowing in, developers can quickly get to work at producing patches and updates. They can also collect this information to improve upon subsequent games. This ease for developers means better games for the players. It’s a win-win situation!
While I admit that subscription-based gaming has a huge upside, it doesn’t come without a few question marks. For starters, you cannot play any of these games without a stable, fast, and reliable internet connection. That means that players from around the globe where fast internet is unavailable are immediately excluded from this gaming community.
Secondly, while 10 to 15 dollars a month sounds cheap, that equals 120 to 180 dollars each year. That may sound reasonable to an avid gamer but isn’t so for those who like to buy a game or two and play them.
While I admit that subscription-based gaming isn’t suitable for all, its pros outweigh the cons. The ability to play games without having to invest in gaming-specific hardware is the most significant benefit in my eyes. An advantage that will see the gaming community expand as cloud gaming services become more mainstream and take over.
Audrey Throne is the mother of a 3-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about lifestyle, business, automotive, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.