Are game subscription and streaming services the future of gaming? I hope so

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Here’s the thing, I really want to play Death Stranding but having played a strange game before in Detroit: Become Human, I am hesitant to drop the R900 required to experience Hideo Kojima’s latest adventure.

While I believe Detroit was a great game (seriously, spend this holiday playing it if you haven’t already) I do wish I hadn’t needed to buy it as I played it through once, did a few extras afterwards but have never once gone back to play the game again.

Having only just recently acquired a PlayStation 4, much of my gaming this decade has happened on PC, through Steam.

For a while, Steam was good. To date I have acquired over 242 games through Steam and if I have to confess, I’ve played about 15 of them in total.

Essentially my Steam Library is a shelf of games I purchased to play but never got around to it and now they only serve as something to dust every weekend.

My Steam Library is a collection of games I will likely never play.

So when Microsoft announced it was bringing Xbox Game Pass to PC in a beta test for just R15.90 for the first month and R69 per month thereafter, I was curious.

When Ubisoft announced Uplay+ I was excited and was among the first to test it out at launch in September.

After several months using each service on and off, I do hope we see more of these services in the next decade and here’s why.

What I love about Xbox Game Pass for PC is being able to install a game and start playing and if I hate the game, well all I wasted was an afternoon downloading the game.

There is no need to fuss with timers and refund conditions, you simply try the game out and if you like it, you continue playing.

As a PC gamer the ability to play a game that sucks and walk away with nothing but wasted bandwidth is pretty incredible. For most of my life PC games have been a one and done deal. When you install the game, you use the one-time activation code and the game is pretty much locked to you. There is no resale market and if you do find one it’s usually rather dodgy.

That means that if a game like, oh I don’t know, Anthem, turns out to suck, well that’s just too bad for you. The game is now yours and you cannot sell it on the second hand market

Subscription services remove that problem entirely.

Despite receiving review code for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Uplay+ allowed me to play the game ahead of its launch. Hell, I could play the game at launch, in its entirety, with all of the benefits of having purchased it but then walked away when I’d had my fill.

All of these games and more for just R69.

It is absolutely freeing to be able to do that.

The same goes for the following games that I have been able to play thanks to Game Pass for PC:

  • Slay the Spire
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Gears 5
  • Darksiders III
  • Metro Exodus
  • The Outer Worlds

And all of these games cost me just R414. Sure in a few months/years time I may not be able to play those games but I don’t really go back to games once I have played them. Should I decide I want to play Gears 5 again in future then I’ll pick it up on sale at a discount but the point is, I’ve played the game and it cost me R69.

An argument can be made that more game subscriptions services will illicit more money from my wallet but as it stands I am spend far less than my monthly budget for gaming and I have subscription services to thank.

So what about streaming?

This year saw Google release its streaming service Stadia. Billed as a Netflix for gaming, subscribers were said to be able to launch and play games at up to 4K at 60FPS from their browser.

At launch the service proved to be hit or miss with several launch titles exhibiting performance problems or Stadia simply being too complex for folks.

The service has a long way to go but Stadia represents what I believe to be the direction gaming will head. The only thing is I believe we are a bit further away from this than 2020.
The primary reason for this is 5G. Yes, we’re talking about 5G in a piece about gaming, deal with it.

Among the myriad benefits 5G promises, the connectivity standard brings with it ultra low latency that can go as low as 1ms. The trouble is that in order to hit that 1ms latency, you need a short range network on a specific band that is likely going to be used for enterprise and mission critical applications. Of course I could be wrong but as it stands, that appears to be where the heads of network operators are at.

Commercial applications that you and I may use could see latency as low as 5ms but again, note the could.

As it stands there is no way of knowing how 5G networks will be configured in the future and if consumers will have access to low latency, high bandwidth networks or indeed when.

So while the future of gaming could look like Stadia, there’s absolutely no way to guarantee that which makes subscribing and purchasing games a rather hard ask for many people.

The idea behind Stadia is great but honestly, the pain of having to download a game before playing it is a pain I am familiar with and hence I’d like to see more subscription game services launch in 2020.

For anybody looking to get a PC game for the geek in their life, consider getting them a game subscription instead. They’ll get more games than you can afford and you’ll likely become their favourite person because of it.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.