Game Subscription Services Are Good for Gamers

Game subscription services have been gaining a lot of traction over the past year. Google Stadia and Xbox Game Pass for PC, joined the ranks of many other services we already have. EA Access, Ubisoft’s UPlay, Playstation Now, all the big players are pushing their platforms on consumers.

November 27, 2019
Stadia reaches anyone with phones or other smart devices, but the verdict is still out on how well it will perform when it launches. Game Pass gives us access to all of Microsoft’s exclusive titles, usually earlier than the official release date. Playstation Now is finally available on PC, but with mostly a collection of older titles.
We even saw Nintendo release their online service near the end of 2018, which includes a retro game pass of sorts. This year they added some stellar SNES titles to the growing library of NES games. It seems like everyone is jumping onto this new model of monetization, but is this good for gamers?

They Offer A Lot of Value For The Price

One of the biggest proponents of these services is that you get a vast collection of games to play at a fraction of the price. Most of the more popular ones often sell for $60, plus have additional DLC that can push the price upwards of $100! If you are like most gamers and buying a handful of these a year, it can really start to break the bank!

In fact, Playstation, Xbox, and Google Stadia, only cost about $10 a month, which seems to be the sweet spot for now. If you buy a couple games a year at full price, the subscription service pays for itself. You’ll also get all the additional games at no extra cost, so there is massive value to be had. Now, a lot of the value in these types of services will be dependent on what games are the most important to you. Financially speaking, for most of us the price is worth admission.

I feel the viability of these services will be heavily dependent on the pricing model. With online stores like Steam, Humble Bundle, and GOG, it’s easier than ever to find deals on the games you want to own. It can often be cheaper than a subscription service, if you are willing to wait awhile after the games are released. However, you may miss out on playing the game when it’s surrounded by hype, and these sites won’t always have the games you want. Definitely not the exclusive titles.

I think the value of subscriptions will depend on the individual. If you are someone who buys at least 1 or 2 full priced games and a few smaller ones a year, subscription services make a lot of sense.

If the cost is something that still makes you hesitate, it hasn’t been a problem for me to find deals on Game Pass. When every Xbox exclusive title releases, Microsoft will run promotions on their subscription service. For Gears 5, they offered two months for only $2! I was able to play through Gears 4 and Gears 5, plus get early access. This deal also included Xbox Live Gold, so that I could play online with my brother! As I write this article, my subscription is ending and I haven’t used it in 3 weeks. It doesn’t even matter though, because it only cost $2, and I got more than enough out of it. I was able to play two $60 games for two bucks!

As another practical example, think about Madden. This is a franchise that releases every year with more or less the same core features, and not a lot of ground breaking changes. But if this is one of those must-haves for your collection, you will be shelling out at least $60 a year to pick up every new release! Plus a lot of fans will spend money in the ultimate team mode to buy player packs to craft better teams. If you utilize a subscription service, you won’t need to buy the game every year, and it leaves you with more cash to spend on your ultimate team!

EA Access is one of the cheaper services at $4.99 per month, or $29.99 a year. So instead of choosing to spend $60 a year on the game, you can pay half price! It even includes a 10% discount on all ultimate team packs, and early access to the game. Don’t forget you also get a library of other fantastic EA games like Battlefield, Fifa, Star Wars Battlefront, and more, without spending any more money.

More Games, Less Time

Years ago, I likely wouldn’t have even considered something like this because I wanted to own all my games. But as my life gets busier, and my backlog of games growing by the day, these subscription services are an absolute lifesaver. There are just so many amazing games releasing every day that there just isn’t enough time to play them all. Sometimes I feel guilty when I buy an expensive game and don’t play it for long enough. I’m positive that others feel this way too.

It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy owning these games, but I know that once I play through the main campaign, I’m not going to have time to enjoy the game again for awhile. I have tons of other ones to play, and even so, I can always buy Game Pass again for $10 a month if I want to enjoy it again. When we get the inevitable Gears 6, I will definitely be picking it up! There’s so many games I just wouldn’t be able to play any other way, and it’s why I am so grateful for services like these.

Use It As A Rental Service

Another obvious pro to this type of model is that you can use it to try out lots of games before you buy them. Xbox Game Pass in particular with 200 games, at let’s say an average of $30 each, you are getting access to $6000 worth of content for $10 a month, with new content added regularly! There have been quite a few indie titles that I was able to either complete rather quickly, or play long enough to decide I didn’t need to spend the full price to own it on my Nintendo Switch. It’s just another great benefit to having subscription services like these.

Unique Experiences

Streaming can also provide new experiences not possible on other platforms. GRID, an online racing game, is coming to Google Stadia and will feature a mode where you race up to 40 players at once on a single track. We won’t know how well it will perform until it releases, but this only works because the game is streamed from remote servers and beamed to your device. As this technology further develops, I expect even more one of a kind experiences.

There Are Potential Drawbacks

We haven’t talked about the major counterpoint to these types of services… You won’t physically, or digitally, own the games that you are playing. For a lot of people this is a deal breaker. As soon as your subscription lapses, hundreds of games are gone in an instant. We can’t be sure these servers will even be up forever, and that hits home for a lot of us that still love to dust off the old Nintendo Entertainment System.

There are definitely a lot of games I would love to own, and I still buy them. I more so use subscriptions to supplement my gaming library with titles I wouldn’t be able to play otherwise. Also I don’t see the majority of gamers concerned about being able to play a 10 year old Call of Duty, when we’ll likely get a dozen or more in that amount of time. I think if we start to see these services more as complements to the games we own, not owning a few here and there will be easier to swallow.

I’ve never had a problem with my games being playable years later, at least with the digital titles I’ve actually purchased. I can’t say the same about the hours I spent using cd cleaner and blowing into Nintendo cartridges. If you subscribe to one of these platforms, you often get discounts if you decide to purchase any game.

Which Service Is Right For You

So to summarize the pros, subscription services in most cases often provide better value than purchasing games individually. They give you access to retro games, AAA titles, and 1st party exclusives, and allow you to try expensive games before you decide to purchase them at a discount.

It’s impossible to play every game, so subscribing to every service isn’t really a good idea. If you do, more power to you! I feel subscription services for now are better served as complements to the way we already consume games. If you’re heavily invested in one console, purchasing at least one of these should strike the perfect balance between traditional consumption and subscription services. It definitely works for me, being that Nintendo is my primary console.

If you are a Sony or Xbox fan, I think you are at a huge disadvantage because there is no official way to enjoy a Mario, Zelda, or any of their other legendary properties without owning their dedicated gaming consoles. If this doesn’t bother you, then it’s easy to choose Playstation or Xbox, whichever has more 1st party games you usually play, and then pay for the subscription service of the opposite platform if you have a computer to use. Most of us don’t have 2 consoles, but many already own a computer. You also have the option of using EA, Ubisoft, or any of the other services to complement your Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo libraries. The options are endless and you can pick and choose to best fit your playing style.

Nintendo has the most intellectual properties, followed by Sony and Microsoft. All I need now is a better subscription service for Sony and I’m all set! Playstation Now needs to release Sony exclusive games on launch day, like Xbox does.

Nintendo is really the only one lacking in terms of a game subscription, only just releasing their online service with retro games a year ago. It only includes NES and SNES games though, and you need a Nintendo Switch to use it. They still need a service for their new 1st party titles like Mario and Zelda. I don’t think they would do this, at least not for a long time, because they value their properties so highly, but it is the biggest piece missing out of all these.

So if you are trying to decide, buy the console you play the most games on, and then choose another service to essentially rent other games that you wouldn’t be able to play otherwise.

Conclusion

Not only are games more accessible than ever, you now no longer have to actually purchase them to play it. This means it’s cheaper than ever to play these massive titles, assuming you don’t mind not owning the game. This was something that took a long time for me to wrap my head around.

For the majority of us, games are expensive. We just don’t have the money or the time to invest in more than one gaming console, and we can’t afford every new game that comes out either. I used to be so attached to owning my games and I never really sold them. With the push to digital games, streaming, and subscription services, my gaming habits have gradually been shifting.

I’ve always been a Nintendo guy because they make the games I want to play. They have the most successful and oldest exclusive properties, including Zelda, Kirby, Mario, and all the characters in the Mushroom Kingdom. The problem with this is that I miss a lot of the popular AAA games that release on Playstation and Xbox, including some of their great exclusives.

Subscriptions are allowing me to play games that I never would have been able to get my hands on, and that’s amazing. It’s breaking the barrier to entry for all gamers out there.

I don’t believe that subscription services and game streaming will kill off physical games. I think we are a ways away from that, if it happens at all. For me, it’s all about options. All these services and ways to play allow more gamers to play more games, and I couldn’t be happier.

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