Video games have been a hugely popular form of entertainment for several decades, but the model for how they are bought, sold, and consumed continues to evolve. The last five years or so have seen the rise of gaming subscriptions, where players can access an ever-growing library of titles and special offers and discounts for a monthly or yearly fee.
Subscribing to a service like Xbox Game Pass or Apple Arcade makes simple economic sense for players. Buying a single premium title video game isn’t cheap, and few can afford to keep up with the release schedule of major developers, let alone smaller indie publishers.
It’s simply not possible to purchase every hotly recommended new title. In addition, the risk of spending a considerable sum on a game you may not enjoy means that many players stick to one type of game or follow just a couple of favorite franchises.
The rise of mobile gaming has increased the number of casual gamers who just want to play, rather than own, their chosen games.
The annual cost of a subscription compares favorably to that of buying a half-dozen AAA titles a year. As mentioned above, it gives players access to a regularly updated library of new releases, back catalog items, and games from other developers that they might not otherwise have encountered.
The chance to play games before they’re officially released and get substantial discounts on pre-orders are also powerful draws.
Nothing to lose
Within a couple of years of the first subscription services launching, companies were finding that subscribers were spending more time playing games compared to non-subscribers and were also playing a wider variety of games.
Having paid up front, they had nothing to lose in stepping outside their comfort zones to try out titles they wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
The advantages of streaming
The opportunity to stream games from the cloud rather than download them further reduces risk and encourages diversity.
Casino game providers have long used this model, where players can access a casino site for free and try everything from a poker room to online real money slots.
With no financial barrier to entry, players can try out games they’ve heard good things about elsewhere or that have been recommended to them by friends.
Try before you buy
For providers, encouraging players to try new games is one of the main objectives of the subscription model. If a player likes a game in a franchise they play as part of a sub, then they’re more likely to buy into the franchise overall, purchasing new premium games in the series and spin-offs outside of their subscription.
Even with non-franchise games, subscriptions may introduce players to developers or publishers they’d not previously been familiar with but will follow from then on. If players enjoy a wide variety of games, they will stay engaged for longer and will play more. This, in turn, means they get more value from their subscription and will be more likely to renew it.
With the desire to own products being replaced in our culture by the desire for access to an almost endless range of experiences, subscriptions and streaming is undoubtedly the future for video games. More variety means a healthier ecosystem and more significant benefits for everyone.