Ubisoft Vice President for Partnerships and Revenue, Chris Early, made a controversial statement about the future of the gaming industry. He suggested gamers need to move away from the notion of 'owning' their games for subscription services to truly flourish.
This concept might seem alien to traditional gamers who have grown accustomed to purchasing and owning their games. Yet, Early argues that this change is crucial for the further development of game streaming and cloud gaming services like Ubisoft's UPlay+ and similar platforms.
The rise of digital games has already transformed the way games are consumed. Unlike physical titles, digital games cannot be resold, traded, or lent out. However, despite these limitations, digital games have gained significant popularity due to the convenience they offer. They are easy to store, carry, and they don't wear out over time.
Chris Early's argument centers around mimicking this shift in the gaming industry. Just as consumers transitioned from physically owning games to digital purchases, they should, according to Early, transition from owning games at all to subscribing to a service.
Subscription services as seen in other industries have proved successful. Music and television services such as Spotify and Netflix have drawn in millions of users with the promise of an extensive library at their fingertips. For a monthly fee, customers get ongoing access to a catalogue of media. Despite not owning the media, they consume it as much as they want.
Implementing this model in the gaming industry would give players access to a multitude of games for a subscription fee. The appeal of this is twofold; consumers can save on the cost of games while developers can rely on a steady revenue stream.
However, critics argue that while the subscription model has worked in other industries, it may not be suitable for gaming. One concern raised is the issue of game preservation. In the world of physical and digital game sales, once a game is bought, it is owned forever.
On the other hand, in a subscription model, games are only accessible as long as the subscription lasts. If a service is discontinued, there's a risk that games on that platform may be lost. This endangers the preservation of games, particularly niche or lesser-known titles.
Another area of concern is the potential loss of revenue for game developers. Subscription services typically operate on a 'play-to-earn' model, where developers are paid based on how often their games are played. For smaller developers, this may not provide a sufficient income.
For these reasons, many gamers might be reluctant to embrace the subscription model. However, Chris Early argues that the evolution of the industry necessitates this shift, despite the obstacles.
Ubisoft's UPlay+ service operates on a subscription model. The platform offers access to a catalog of old and new Ubisoft games for a fixed monthly fee, eliminating the need for gamers to buy each game individually.
In theory, a similar service could be rolled out across the entire gaming industry. A large collection of games from various developers could be compiled into one service, giving players unlimited access for a monthly fee.
Ultimately, the future of the gaming industry and how games will be consumed is yet to be determined. The subscription model undoubtedly has its benefits and could transform the way games are produced and played.
However, there are significant challenges standing in the way of this transition. Consumers' readiness to let go of game ownership, game preservation issues, and developer revenues all play a role.
The gaming world is accustomed to evolution, having seen significant changes over the decades. From arcade coin-ops to physical game sales, to digital purchases, and potentially onto subscription services, the gaming industry refuses to sit still.
Whether Chris Early's vision will come to fruition remains to be seen. Regardless, his statement has stirred up a lively discussion about the future of game consumption. As gaming continues to evolve, the industry and its consumers will inevitably have to adapt.