Subscription gaming services such as Xbox Game Pass, EA Access and PlayStation Now have become a good deal for players – or at least, a good way of ensuring you never reach the bottom of your pile of shame. As this year’s E3 festivities made plain, they are now central to platform holder strategy, with Microsoft releasing all its first-party titles on Game Pass, and Google Stadia to ship with its own, if rather meagre, subscription game service. But are they always a fair deal for developers? The details of these partnerships remain closely guarded, but in a panel discussion at Gamelab last week hosted by GamesIndustry.biz editor-in-chief Matt Handrahan, some of the people behind Crusader Kings, Rime, Q.U.B.E. and Inside offered broad thoughts on Xbox Game Pass in particular.
“Consumers want as many games as possible, as free as possible, and you can’t get anything for free, so you need to find the right price, but that’s the angle,” began Dino Patti, co-founder of Playdead and latterly, Somerville developer Jumpship. “Developers need to look at what does this get me, and for me, and I might be biased, but I think the way business is for Game Pass, it’s the first time it’s actually what I would consider fair for developers.
“[All the other times] I’ve been suggested subscription it’s never worked out, because they don’t know what developers need, and in the end, it is developers putting out a game for free!” Patti went on, adding, “with Game Pass they’re doing it correctly for the developers.”