The path to a ‘Netflix for games’
The dream of a 'Netflix for games’ is coming along… slowly. Game streaming is finally set to go big this autumn with the launch of Google’s Stadia
and Microsoft’s xCloud
Stadia is proper streaming – the games are run from the cloud to your various devices, but aside from one game bundled with your subscription, you need to buy additional titles to run on it. xCloud, however, is focused for now on letting you stream your own games from your own Xbox to other devices. Other streaming services, like Nvidia’s GeForce Now and Sony’s PlayStation Now, offer variations on the streaming theme, too.
For now, Sony and Microsoft are keen to present streaming as an add-on to traditional gaming. They’re not talking about letting you ditch your console just yet. But it feels like we’re only a few years away from a true 'Netflix for games,’ where you pay a month fee to play a large library of titles wherever you are.
The question is what this will do to game design. Spotify and Netflix have changed the way music is written and TV shows are paced. In a world of infinite choice, you need to get the audience hooked immediately.
Will all game designers feel obliged to jump straight into the action, James Bond style? Will games be funded the same way, or will mega-budgets become even more of a risk when publishers get paid for the minutes a player puts into their titles? For a flop, revenues could be incredibly low with no up-front payment. People might play five minutes, decide a game’s terrible, and never come back.
It’s too early to tell, but subscription download services like Apple Arcade
and Xbox Game Pass
are surely only a stepping stone to a real shift in the way we consume games. But the way we make games will have to evolve, too.