Edit: Called it: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-07-29-ea-launching-xbox-one-subscription-service
Double called it: http://evilavatar.com/forums/showthread.php?p=2417450#post2417450
Technically there’s no difference, I would argue anyway.
A thought struck me while I was reading that Microsoft are altering their XBox Live Gold subscriptions. They’re making them more like the Sony Playstation. You can use applications which are practically out of their control (Netflix, etc.), that you’re already paying a subscription to use, for free so long as you have the app’s subscription.
Though alike Sony’s Playstation Plus; you’ll get access to free games per month as well. However, as we all should know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and what you’re actually doing is paying for the games as part of your subscription in some way.
So what’s my point here?
Let’s use television as an example. In the UK you pay for a television license each year, technically this covers the cost of the BBC channels but thanks to UK law it also means reception of the television broadcasts. The BBC channels do not have advertising, it’s subsidised by the television license fee, but the other channels need advertising to stay afloat.
You’re paying a subscription for the channels; if you’re using Virgin Media or Sky then you’re paying a subscription again for your cable/satellite package to be able to use the technology to view the channels and whatever exclusives the respective provider has garnered for your viewing pleasure.
Alternatively you can just buy your series/show/etc. on media, which I would consider the pay as you go option but the analogy breaks down slightly in that the money doesn’t necessarily go to the television provider unless they happen to have published the media.
Music is also, partly, using a similar model. You can go out and buy your media or download it; but services such as Spotify charge you a monthly fee if you let them to access your music conveniently. Up until recently they put limits on what songs you could access, but music being a more versatile and easier to access and duplicate beast, this model fell down somewhat and so it’s more so the service that Spotify can charge for.
How does this relate to games?
Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold entice you to subscribe and by part of that they give you free games per month only if you’re a subscriber. That’s effectively games on subscription, the OnLive streaming service also provides you access to games if you pay a monthly sum and the library of which extends over time.
Alternatively you can pay as you go by going into the store and picking up your media or digitally downloading and paying online.
The PC, however, if we take Valve’s Steam service is predominantly Pay as you Go. I had a thought, though. Valve do something kinda sneaky, they have regular sales.
So say for example, you’re the type that only ever buys games when you really want them and you wait until they’re sufficiently reduced. You’re possibly starting to be out of the norm for Steam users as studies claim most games in a library aren’t played. Here we possibly hit the crux and the relation to sales. Valve take a slice of every sale on Steam and by providing regular sales which people will be tempted to buy into because of either the game or the price point, they are then paying into the subscription model per month by directly and regularly paying into Steam for the games.
Steam have sales weekly and I think there’re sufficient numbers of people to contribute to make this work. What this is also showing is that the Pay as you Go mentality is also actually a subscription type of basis when you’re paying into the same system, it’s just that the payments aren’t so frequent as monthly, but you’re ensuring that there is a base amount of money coming in that can be quantified while helping to top it up now and again with those people who’re on longer subscription (pay as you go) type of plans.
Now, if we consider that most peoples libraries aren’t played; this is similar to how television is monitored as to which channels and tv shows are popular and what’s being watched. Your game time is tracked and this means that your game provider can tell which ones are popular, which ones to invest in and also push forward or not depending on if they want them to attempt to gain traction or to analyse why they’re not.
I surmise the question arising, at least to myself, is that is anything going to change? are we going to see subscription only gaming?
I don’t think we are, what we will see is a system in place to allow for the tiers of subscription to services. You will still have your pay as you go (long term between payment subscribers), your faster, monthly subscribers and those who pay a premium for instant access.
However what I think we should see to help accommodate these metrics and tempt people into them more for support, is prices coming down and doing so regularly, even EA’s Origin buckled to having sales even though initially they said that they wouldn’t. Playing off the psychology of people that they’re getting a deal and value for money.
So subscription or pay as you go ?
If you’ve bought something more than once then you’re already subscribing, the only winning move is not to pay.