Subscription Services Like Game Pass Can “Go Either Way” for Smaller Indie Teams, Says Tunic Publisher

"In general, subscription buyouts don't pay for that many years of a team's development, unless your team is very small," says Finji CEO Bekah Saltsman.

Posted By | On 15th, Jan. 2023

Xbox Game Pass

That Game Pass is incredible value for money from a consumer’s perspective has never been in any doubt, and if anything, the service only continues to become more and more attractive as time goes by. Its merits, however, has been questioned by some in more ways than one- for instance, is Game Pass as beneficial to smaller indie creators as it is to mid- to large-sized teams that agree to release their games for the service?

That’s a question that was recently asked by Bekah Saltsman, CEO Finji, publisher of the likes of Tunic (which launched day and date with Game Pass) and Night in the Woods. Speaking recently with GamesIndustry, she pointed out that the libraries of subscription services may at some point become so big enough that smaller indie releases end up getting lost in the crowd.

“Because of the constriction and consolidation of the industry over the past two years and how a lot of companies are just owned by the subscription services, my concern is that because the libraries are so big and the companies are so prolific with huge user bases, that they won’t need us,” she said.

Saltsman goes on to point out that subscription buyouts don’t tend to be enough to pay for many years of a development team’s work, which means the model may not be one that indie teams can rely on for a sustained period.

“Will the budgets be enough with the higher cost of making games to be able to allow indies to keep making cool stuff,” she said. “Because if we turn a buying population into a subscription population, that means we have to rely on subscription fees and buyouts. And in general, subscription buyouts don’t pay for that many years of a team’s development, unless your team is very small.

“Subscriptions are both awesome and terrifying at the same time, and it could go either way. And I worry most for the smaller indie teams who maybe don’t have an early foothold as creators, that they may not have the space and the money to make more than one game.”

While Microsoft has insisted that Game Pass is sustainable as a business model for itself, the concern that it might not be as lucrative for smaller development teams over the long term is certainly one that’s worth bringing up and talking about. Whether that’s something that Microsoft has plans to address in the future remains to be seen- though it’s worth pointing out that the company has made it a bit of a habit of partnering with indie teams for day and date Game Pass launches.


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