The future of gaming is not something we can predict. But we as gamers can speculate based on current trends in gaming culture and look at the current games and services the have been made available to us. In this opinion piece I have tried to look at the trends over the last generation where both Sony and Microsoft have introduced streaming and subscriptions services. The latter is supposedly about to announce a streaming console and new package for their subscription deals if rumours are to be believed. EA has also jumped on the bandwagon with EA/Origin Access early this generation. What does this mean for the way in which games are paid for by us as consumers for the future? I have tried to discuss my thoughts and opinions on this topic below but please let me know your thoughts in the comments as I want to get as many perspectives on this as possible and incite discussion.
Following up on the recent leaks about Xbox Scarlett. The rumoured successor to the Xbox One which supposedly is a lower powered, less expensive console. That can stream games running on high end PC servers using Microsoft’s Azure cloud services. So that games run at their best for a suggested $149 price point. In order to access the streaming service I would assume, if the rumours are true, that a Xbox Live & Xbox Game Pass subscription would be required as well. The other rumour that has been doing the rounds is Xbox All Access which combines Xbox Live & Game Pass for a reduced monthly cost versus paying for them separately.
The Recent Past
This generation has seen Microsoft, Sony & EA release their own form of “Netflix for games” offering a huge library of each publishers games for a monthly subscription. Sony have PS Now on the Playstation 4 which gives users access to a huge and ever growing library. Consisting of PS4 games as well as some of their back catalog on previous gen Sony consoles. Sony also followed Microsoft in charging for their online services this generation. Whilst also continuing to provide free games for Playstation Plus subscribers. Something they were the first to do in the PS3 generation. EA offers EA Access, which Sony turned down. But it is available on Xbox One and PC offering users a huge amount of their games. Some only months old as part of their subscription. Most recent was Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass which now includes every first party title on release day. If you subscribe to the service and a huge library of older AAA titles. Plus some old and brand new indie games.
Looking at the way TV has evolved over the last 5 years or even longer than that. These subscription services offered for games are often compared to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime & Now TV. My TV watching habits have gravitated to the point where I very seldom watch normal TV. Almost all of my TV watching is through one subscription or another. The best thing is I can pick and choose which one I want to pay for. With no fixed contract I can jump between providers to suit my needs. Watch what I want, when I want. Nothing on the service I want? Cancel my sub and look for another. This is true of services like Game Pass, EA Access, Gold, PS Plus & PS Now. I can pick and choose which subscription I want from month to month depending on the games each has available.
The Potential Future
With these new rumours, whilst nothing more than rumours at the time of writing this article. They are highly plausible and believable to me. Phil Spencer said at E3 2018 just 2 months ago that they were deep into the architecture of the next Xbox consoles. Before moving on to announce their streaming platform and saying that they wanted to make Xbox games playable on any device. If Xbox Scarlett is indeed a streaming box it could potentially stream your games over the internet to any screen you own, anywhere you want to play them. This is, in my opinion, absolutely Microsoft’s goal with their next generation of not just consoles but where and how games are played. Hell, I would absolutely believe if Microsoft said they wanted to stream their games on “rival” platforms like PS5 and Nintendo Switch or it’s potential successor. Microsoft have made it abundantly clear that they want to break down the walls of competing platforms. Just this week they announced they were bringing 5 Xbox games to Steam and physical disc for the PC.
What does this mean for the future of gaming? How will it affect retailers and how games are sold to us as consumers? Will all or the majority of big new AAA titles release on the platform holders respective subscription services or create their own like EA have done with EA Access. Recently EA have started EA Access Premium for PC (Known as Origin Access on PC but left it as EA Access for clarity). Premium grants access to not just older titles but every brand new game from EA day and date with their retail release. If successful this will absolutely gravitate over to Xbox One. Will big publishers like Ubisoft introduce their own subscription model? These services have proven successful, popular and highly profitable for the publishers. So it will no doubt grow and evolve in my mind to become the main way we pay for and consume our games. Just like it has done for movies and TV.