With the recent launch of Xbox Game Pass on the Xbox One, it’s clear that more video games developers and publishers are going to continue to seek a stake in the digital revolution happening in the video game industry. Similar to what television, books, and music have already been migrating towards; many companies are wading the waters by creating digital services that offer a library of both old and new games. The question that needs to be answered though, is whether or not the future lies within a service where you can download games or one focused on streaming?
At this point each platform has– at the very least– a digital shop where full retail released games and digital only games inhabit. While brick and mortar game sales aren’t going anywhere just yet, over recent years the percentage of gamers spending money on digital purchases as opposed to physical ones has been increasing. As of last year’s most recent reports, digital sales have climbed to over 70% of the market share– it’s important to note though that the digital sales figures include subscriptions as well as downloadable content. My guess is that, though I believe the digital trend will continue to grow, the numbers are slightly skewed due to DLC purchases and memberships to Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus being factored in.
Though, that doesn’t deny that there’s clearly an interest in these types of services, especially if you look at the success of services such as Netflix. But with how PlayStation Now has fizzled and lost most of it’s support and features over the years since its launch, a true streaming only, download-free solution for gaming may not come to fruition just yet– or ever. Although, PlayStation Now has many great aspects, it does showcase that a streaming only service will have latency and lag depending on your connection, which in some games may go unnoticed, but that won’t likely be the case for all. Not to mention, with the ever expanding focus on the next, more impressive resolution, a streaming only version of the game your playing may not make it out of 720p if you don’t have the proper equipment to handle a 1080p or 4K stream.
EA has gone on record several times stating how successful EA Access has been, but in the same vein as Microsoft’s Game Pass, it’s a paid service where you download the games offered by the service, not stream them. So this would make me more inclined to say that the future may not fall in a streaming only service, but in services such as EA Access, and the most recent Xbox Game Pass.
The benefit to services like these are that it allows you access to a wide array of content for a low entry fee– in these two instances at least. Not to mention, some older games with an online community will be given a surge in player base which is great for indie games or games that still stay active but are a few years old.
Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see the trend that the industry bets on. Though, with horsepower and graphical capabilities always being one of the focuses of the console supremacy discussion, I can’t imagine both developers and gamers alike will utilize streaming services if the experience will be of a lesser quality.