Subscriptions in the entertainment industry has been growing frequently every year with many different companies promoting more services with their specific properties. That includes the likes of Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and a lot more in terms of movies and TV. But what about for the different subscription services from different places in the games industry like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo. There are a lot of them that I won’t cover here, such as mobile or PC. This will be more focused on console players. Well, I have a bunch of thoughts on whether these are helpful or harmful in the games industry, and honestly I am mixed in a lot of ways for them.
In terms of playing games on mobile or PC, you don’t need to be pay to play games with friends online. In order to play any game that is not a free to play title on console that has online, you have to be subscribed to their specific service. I believe that is bad in terms of some individuals who might only want to play one or two titles a year with friends online and cannot afford the cost to play online. At least they don’t make you pay for the free to play titles any more like the use to, so that is at least some nice progress. What about everything else besides online play for the console subscriptions?
Nintendo’s subscription service is different compared to the competing first parties. Most of the stuff in Nintendo’s service is older games from the NES and SNES with select game trials for titles you can try for newer titles, cloud saves, online play, and more for the small price of only $20 per year. Then there is the Expansion Pack that offers N64 and Genesis titles on top of everything else. One thing about Nintendo’s expansion pack is they offer more in it than just older games as they have DLC for select multi-player specific titles: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Animal Crossing New Horizon. All of this for $50 for the year isn’t a bad price at all, and my question is will they add more to this service in the future? It is definitely a possibility! So it is not the same thing as the other services, but it definitely is a nice touch to keep alive older platforms since Nintendo got rid of Virtual Console on the Switch.
Xbox is not a system I currently have as there is not as much in terms of exclusives that interest me that have launched so far, but that could be changing pretty soon as they seem to have more games coming out soon. Microsoft and Xbox has a great service with Game Pass with many games launching day one on the service from third parties and all of their first party studios. With these day one releases, sometimes they are great additions, however; on the flip side of that coin, this means that games might launch on the service from teams that are incomplete, *cough cough Halo: Infinite cough cough*. The price point of $10 a month is pretty fair for just Game Pass, or $15 for GP Ultimate that includes Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass for Console, PC, and Cloud (each with a specific library of titles). Game Pass Ultimate also includes EA Play which offers even more value overall with EA and EA Original titles like Dead Space (not the new remake), Lost in Random, It Takes Two, and more. There are many games that keep flowing into the service and usually you can find something that you want to play.
PlayStation use to have the PSNow service but they combined it with PlayStation Plus branding this year for three tiers; Essentials, Extra, and Premium. The Essential tier is the same one as before; aka monthly games, online play, cloud saves, etc. The Extra adds in a bunch of PS4 and PS5 titles both that are older first party and third party titles in a catalog kind of like Game Pass. Then the Premium tier adds in more games with PS1, PS2, PSP, and streamable PS3 games. Extra tier or higher also allows you to play the Ubisoft+ Classics Catalog of games, kind of like how GP has EA, PS+ has Ubisoft. The PS3 games that are on there are good but they are still only streaming based, not downloadable. Sony is not putting their first party titles on the service day 1 like Game Pass is, but some third party titles are going to the service day 1, for example the indie hit Stray did. They are doing game trials for premium members for some first and third party games including Horizon Forbidden West, Soul Hackers 2, Oli Oli World, and more. Most of the titles besides the PS3 are downloadable which is a good thing. Overall the service for $60, $100, or $120 a year isn’t a bad price, especially when compared to the $180 a year of Xbox Game Pass.
So, I have talked about the three console services that vary between costs, benefits, games, and more; but what about my overall arching question. Well I needed to talk about them not to rank them or anything but to talk about both the pluses and minuses of services like these. One of the very strong positives is to save the consumer on upfront costs to big games that might cost 60+ dollars or to test games out before you want to purchase them. Secondly, there are games on the services that you might pass over normally when it is in the store but it is available to play through the service and you can just hit download to check out the game, and explore more games than you might otherwise think to play. A third positive about the console subscription services is to keep older titles and IPs alive in different ways that might not otherwise be alive, such as Banjo Kazooie on Nintendo Switch or Sly Cooper, albeit through streaming, on PlayStation.
There are negatives to subscriptions that some might already know and others might not. One of the negatives in my eyes I kind of already hinted at, some games could, I repeat COULD, release incomplete on a service and get patched and fixed later. It won’t happen all the time, but it could affect releases in the future. Another big thing in my eyes is the digital vs physical debate for games. I am someone who loves to actually own a physical disc or cartridge and subscription services, while it might not be blatantly there, is pushing to the digital only future that a lot of people are scared of happening. If a game like a smaller title or indie is digital only and is on a service, it isn’t that big of a deal in my opinion. Lastly, you don’t own the game if it is part of a subscription service. Some might be okay with that, others might not. I myself am subscribed to services for many reasons; one of which is to play a lot of games that I want to play. They are not completely bad, they have a lot of good things going for them. There are cautions and worries that always are at the back of my mind about the future of gaming in general.
Alright, here are my final thoughts about subscription services. In a lot of ways, they provide both value and unique experiences that you might not otherwise experience. On the negative side; however, they push the idea of an all digital future and you never really own the game on the service and it could be taken away from you. Like most things in the world, you have both positive and negative aspects of subscription services. I didn’t discuss all services, others like Apple or Google have their own on mobile, or Prime Gaming and Humble Choice on PC, but a lot of companies have one or could potentially have one in the future. What if Sega, Konami, Capcom, Bandai Namco, or others thought… why don’t we have one? We could make a lot more money. That is a terrifying thing to think about. What does everyone else think about them? Do you like them, hate, mixed, or not care? Let us know in the comments!