The traditional way that at-home video games have worked is through the act of individual purchases. From the Atari 2600 up to the current generation, this system has persisted, yet its influence is not what it once was. With the rise and then ubiquity of the high-speed internet, new opportunities have arrived that were impossible before, reshaping what used to be gaming’s fundamental basis into something unprecedented. Offering significant implications for the future direction of the gaming market, the new age is here, and for many, it’s a better choice.
Platforms as a Service
Best illustrating the concept of platforms as a service is the move that various console manufacturers and game publishers have taken towards monthly paid subscription services. On PC, this is best illustrated by the likes of EA Play and Uplay Plus. On console, it’s Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Network that stand as the most popular examples.
For each of these services, the basic premise is a monthly paid subscription that grants access to a variety of different titles. Each of these can be played indefinitely as long as a subscription is active, with new games rotating over the month or season. For a direct reference using Xbox Game Pass as an example, users on this service pay $9.99 or $14.99 a month for access to more than a hundred games. Since buying these titles individually (but permanently) would cost over $1,000, the savings for the user are undeniable.
While relatively new in the world of video games, it’s worth noting that the concept of platforms relying on large online game delivery systems isn’t new. Most notably the first major industry to adopt this system was the landscape of digital casino websites. Having undergone substantial evolution since their inception, these modern services commonly include hundreds of different titles bolstered by bonuses and rewards systems. From slots to table games, live titles, and more, these casino platforms could have served as the key ancestor for the much data-heavier video games that would follow.
Why the Move?
The idea of offering platforms as a service comes from the value that developers see in having people active within an online infrastructure. For a company like Sony, offering permanently claimable monthly games that require a paid subscription to play gives users a reason to keep coming back. The more games users claim, the more reasons they have to have subscribed, creating a financial feedback loop.
Also playing an important part is how keeping users on online systems means they’re more likely to engage with digital purchases. This avoids the second-hand market, which earns game publishers and platforms nothing. With a system like the PS5 Digital model, where game purchases have to be made on first-hand products, developers have assured a bigger cut, an obvious advantage for their side of the aisle.
Though the framework for full platforms as services has been around for years, it’s only now that high-speed internet has become so commonplace that the industries are meeting their potential. With the new generation of console systems leaning increasingly into platforms as a service, it looks like this direction is now solidified for many industry titans. While it’s not likely to ever usurp the traditional market completely, don’t be surprised to see platforms as a service become an inseparable side of the modern game coin moving forward.