Gaming as a Service
The recent demise of Visceral Studios and the subsequent statement by Executive Vice President of Electronic Arts, Patrick Söderlund, pertaining to changes in the way the company wishes to realise future products, has got a lot of gamers thinking. EA seem to think that single player games may not be the sure thing they use to be and that co-operative internet play is where it’s at. Co-op play does seem to be finding its way into more and more game these days regardless of whether its needed or not. It facilitates competitive game play and offers publishers broader scope for monetisation. The latter point is probably its inherent appeal from a business perspective. So naturally the gaming commentariat is presently pondering whether the single player game is under threat. However, there are some who are connecting the hypothetical dots a stage further and considering is this a move further towards gaming as a service?
This very point was raised over at Keen and Graev’s website and it didn’t take long for noted blogger Bhagpuss to succinctly prophesise the inevitability of gaming’s transitioning from a product to a service. “Music has been successfully re-positioned as a service. Movies have been successfully re-positioned as a service. TV has always been a service but has been re-positioned even more effectively to monetize that role. Reading is in the process of being re-positioned into a service, although the extreme conservatism of the pre-existing customer base for that product is making the transition take longer than expected”. Furthermore, there are numerous other examples that can be added to the list. I no longer own Microsoft Office but subscribe to it, yearly. Rather than buying podcasting software, I use Zencastr which is a chargeable service. Then there is Amazon Prime which negates the need for possibly 70% of my traditional household and personal shopping. So, why should games be any different?
The MMORPG genre has already done a lot of ground work with regard to this future transition. I originally bought The Lord of the Rings Online and its first expansion pack on DVD-ROM. However, considering the demise of physical media, changes in the games business models and the evolution of its terms and conditions over the last ten years, I don’t really own diddly-squat. I just pay to access the game as and when I wish to. Then of course there are already services such as Origin Access, where you can pay for access to “The Vault” which does include some premium titles. A lot of folk simply consider it a convenient means to “try before you buy” but others see it as the first steps down the road of gaming as a service. I remember when OnLive closed in 2015 and thought to myself at the time, that it was simply blazing a trail for other companies to follow. It is often the businesses that are first out of the gate, that fall on their face. However, they provide a very useful blue print to those who follow in their wake, having already highlighted potential mistakes.
Internet infrastructure in the UK is slowly improving. Fibre is becoming more accessible on urban areas. We are also raising a generation that are born into a world of services rather than ownership and frankly it is their behaviours that will ultimately determine this cultural change. Personally, although I am conditioned by my age group to favour ownership and products over services, I can accommodate this change. Therefore, I shall not spend an excess of my time screaming into the wind as gaming as a service becomes a reality. As for those who fundamentally oppose this concept, they need to consider when was the last time they successfully held back the “tide”? It really is a matter of “when” rather than “if”. Fortunately, they’re lots of clouds to shout at in the meantime, for those so inclined.