In the recent years we have seen a substantial growth of television industry thanks to subscription-based streaming services, like Netflix and HBO GO. Could a similar distribution model also work for video games? That’s what Microsoft is considering. In an interview with The Guardian the head of Xbox and Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer said that the company is thinking about a subscription service for new single player games. It would mean an expansion of what the Game Pass and PlayStation Plus are now – they provide acces only to back-catalogue games. Spencer said:
We’re in a golden age of television right now. The storytelling ability in TV today is really high, and I think it’s because of the business model. I hope as an industry we can think about the same. [Subscription services] might spur new story-based games coming to market because there’s a new business model to help support their monetisation.
Nowadays, we see a decline in the number of new single player only games, whose place is being taken over by competitive/co-op multiplayer (see Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands) or games-as-a-service (Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, Hitman). A distribution model relying on monthly subscriptions could boost the production of story-based games, as they wouldn’t have to be released as a whole, but in episodes, in a manner analogous to TV shows. That’s similar to what Telltale Games has been doing lately since their first The Walking Dead. The difference is that while Telltale is simply selling season passes directly to players, a subscription service would provide a steady income for game developers. While we don’t mind having adventure games split into episodes, would that same model work for RPGs or an open world action game? It’s hard to tell, but the idea surely has potential.