Are Game Streaming Subscriptions Really the Future?


Around mid-2020, it seemed as though the whole world – or, more accurately, the entirety of the tech world – was tossing an extra hat into the ring now familiar to us as Games Streaming.

SaaS, or Streaming as a Service, has long since been a familiar internet phenomenon. Netflix has been making their billions for more than a decade now, offering reems of digital content available at the touch of a button, for a small, monthly subscription fee. And, as we know, with great power comes great competition; the streaming giant has seen competitors crop up from global giants Amazon, HBO, Disney, Hulu and YouTube.

For longer still, Spotify has dominated digital soundwaves with its music streaming service – further iterations of which have been released by the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple, to name just a few.

In essence, SaaS is nothing new, and it has a proven, track record of launching entire arms of the entertainment industry to new heights – so much so that movie streaming has been at risk of dwarfing its predecessor, the cinema, for quite some time.

So, despite the fact that games streaming services came as a surprise to many in 2020, they were in no way unpredictable. With a proven success rate and billions of dollars up for grabs – and considering the fact that the gaming industry is fast overtaking the movie and music industry in terms of profitability – how could the tech giants lose out on this one?

Read more below.

Exclusivity Divides, Rather than Conquers

If there exists an attractive enough offer for gaming, then the players will always come – this is why we know that, in theory, the gaming subscription service boasts some incredible potential.

The only issue is that the tech giants looking to rise to the top of this new service want the players to come to them, and not someone else.

Consider how many film and TV subscriptions you have. In all likelihood, it is not the full list of services available in your country – or, to hazard a guess, anywhere near that many.

As of 2019, the average American viewer had 3.4 subscriptions – nowhere near the number available – and understandably so: each one represents a financial commitment which, to many, is not insignificant.

The only way to ensure skin in the game is to attain exclusivity on as many of the games players really want to enjoy as possible – and, of course, all these services are thinking the same way. Uniformity offers no reliable opportunity for clear popularity, but, if every service manages to acquire a handful of exclusive rights, it is unlikely that the average player will divide their time between – and allocate their funds to – each and every service that can boast a few exclusive titles.

‘User Culture’ is Different

While many of us would agree that movies represent a great social cue, they remain a largely private affair. We sit alone, or gather in small groups, and discuss them after the fact with friends, co-workers, family members, and internet circles. We may be swayed by their opinions and recommendations – and some of us may even still be swayed by film critics.

The same holds true, for the most part, when it comes to music.

In the world of video games, however, the scene is entirely different. While many of us still game alone, we are – most of us – always conscious of the broader cultural milieu in which the game, its lore, and its characters exist.

Streaming sites (not to be confused, of course, with streaming services) have elevated many once-average gamers to world fame by offering a platform on which they can broadcast live feeds of gameplay.

What’s more, these streamers have proven to be highly lucrative opportunities for brands and other companies. From energy drinks to makeup, Twitch alone sees innumerable sponsorships and placements each year – and the landscape is ready and waiting for loyalties to take hold.

Only time will tell whether or not endorsement from some of the world’s most prominent gamers will sway the public one way or another.

Going Mobile Might not be All it’s Cracked Up to Be

One of the biggest selling points for games streaming services it the ability to transfer the progress of a given title from, say, your dedicated console to your mobile phone. The move is predicted to capture the consistently high level of interest in mobile games, while also bringing it forward to a new era marked by better quality, AAA-titles.

The only trouble is that opportunities for gaming on the go are growing less common. It is unlikely anyone would opt to play on their mobile when their console is available, so consider the phone the ‘last resort’, so to speak, in this scenario.

As remote working takes over, and the morning commute to school or the office grows less necessary, however, so too does the need for this ‘last resort’. Of course, we know that, in the coming years, we will not be quite as housebound as we were in 2020, but we are also beginning to see signs that working and studying outside of the home with the same enthusiasm we enjoyed for the past few decades is unlikely to bounce back to the same degree.

Only time will tell whether or not SaaS for gaming will take off. No doubt, it is experiencing a surge of interest at this point in time, but old habits certainly die hard, and a more traditional approach to gaming may remain the most popular among average gamers.