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Could video games become more like Netflix?

Jesús González
Account Manager
Hall & Partners

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To misquote Bob Dylan, the games they are a changin. The video game industry keeps growing. And with that growth comes new, amazing ways to play as well as interesting ways to get gamers to pay for ever-increasing game budgets. Some of these recent advancements in the video game industry mimic the reasons we like and enjoy other entertainment, such as Netflix: ‘pay as you go’ subscription models for games, and the ability to play them wherever you are. Could a more Netflix-like model become a near reality for games?

The short answer: it’s already heading there.

‘Pay as you go’ will grow.

Games have evolved from physical-only copies to digital downloads. These past few years have seen a steady rise of ‘pay as you go’ services that let you play a large list of downloadable games per month, such as Microsoft’s Game Pass. The service gives subscribers access to over 100 Xbox games for a monthly fee. This year, Game Pass will literally keep changing the game. For the very first time in console history, Microsoft will make new Xbox-exclusive titles available on Game Pass the same day they release in stores.

We’re at a critical point of change on how we could play and pay for games.

Think of the change like before and after Netflix original series. Before, you just had a list of old to semi-new shows at best. Now, you have a blend of the same old, plus brand new original releases. This is a big deal when you think of the up-to-$60 price tag for new games. Instead of paying that big sum for one game, picture your $60 covering a six-month subscription to that game, plus an endless backlog of others.

This bold move from Microsoft will likely start attracting competitors like Sony and Nintendo to find their own competitive solution.

‘Enjoy anywhere’ will be achievable.

Also akin to Netflix, wouldn’t it be great to pick up a game where you left off on a different screen, on the go? This is also already becoming a reality.

Nintendo Switch recently set records as the fastest-selling console in the US, partly due to its genius design as the first-ever handheld-meets-home-screen console hybrid. Switch lets gamers transition from the big screen to on-the-go seamlessly. Along with mobility, many games now allow cross-platform play. Microsoft’s Play Anywhere titles let you play digital copies of games between an Xbox One and a Windows 10 PC. You can play the same game on your screen of choice.

We’re at a critical point of change on how we could play and pay for games. But a word of warning. Much like Netflix, there’s one important part to the formula for these advances to be successful…

Quality content.

Without Stranger Things or Narcos, the likelihood of Netflix keeping my subscription is slim-to-none. Without titles like Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo Switch would have flopped. Without a commitment to develop enticing first-party titles, Microsoft could struggle to make the monthly subscription to Game Pass enticing enough. Without consistently great games, these trends could lose!