Ubisoft wants in on the streaming market, but doesn’t think subscriptions are the business model that will crack the model.
More and more, we are seeing the concept of games streamed from the cloud come up as a viable mechanism for game delivery going forward into the future. We already have Sony with PlayStation Now, and Microsoft and EA have both mentioned their desire to have a streaming service for their games at E3 this year too. Now, another major third party publisher has thrown their hat into the proverbial ring.
Speaking at a panel sponsored by Akamai (transcribed by GamesBeat), Ubisoft Vice President of Partnerships & Revenue Chris Early expressed the enthusiasm that his company has for game streaming, noting that it increases the potential user base they can tap into for their games.
“For us, it’s a question of addressable market,” Early said. “We believe that there are plenty of people who are willing to play the games that we make today if we can deliver it into their hands in a way that they’re willing to pay for. Today, our 150-million customer base buys our games, and as we all know here in this room — we’ve all got friends who stopped playing games because they didn’t buy the last console or didn’t upgrade their PC, who still reminisce about games. We saw that about a game we announced recently [Starlink] where Star Fox is going to be a character. There was an amazing outpouring of nostalgia that created at the press conference. They’re there.”
That said, as much as Ubisoft apparently believes in cloud streamed gaming, it doesn’t think that subscriptions are the way about it. In fact, Early says, streaming services relying on subscriptions may be outright inhibiting the growth of the market.
“I actually view subscription gaming as inhibiting our progress, and I’ll give you two examples,” he said. “One is with PS Now. I think that’s a great technology for getting streaming content to people, but we don’t make the money as a publisher — we don’t make the same amount of money as we would even just putting stuff on sale. So why bother, from a publisher’s standpoint?
“The technology is great for a player. I can play anything anywhere instantly! It’s awesome technology, which is inhibited by the business model. So charge a PlayStation Plus add-on to be able to stream any game you own to any device you own. That’s a great service for the player. It’s going to start people adopting that streaming concept in more places. You’ll be able to get to a place where you have more people focused on streaming.
“There’s a similar challenge with your business model. We see it works. We’re believers. You’ve capped it with a subscription plan, where publishers aren’t able to make money. On the other hand, you could just sell the game and let people have the five-minute experience while it downloads, or pay you an add-on price to be able to continue to have fast access in many more places. With the subscription, it’s just giving it away.”
While I do think that if latency in game streaming comes down, game streaming may become acceptable for the larger, more casual market, I also think that Early has it wrong regarding subscriptions- as the success of services like Netflix and Spotify, not to mention Office 365 and Adobe Creative has shown us, subscriptions are the way of the future. People are willing to pay a little each month to have access to a lot, than make a one time payment to keep something permanently.