Will “deteriorate” proprietary games: Sony subscription services

Sony comments on game subscription services and the effect on first-party titles.

Can a subscription service (Game Pass or PlayStation Plus) provide enough revenue to maintain the quality and runtime of current games? This is the biggest discussion of this very real situation facing the industry. It goes beyond giving the consumer what they want, more games, and asks the question: what is the future of gaming? Sony recently discussed this during their FY 2021 earnings call, and exposed a fact that consumers just don’t want to hear. You cannot publish AAA games on subscription and maintain current budget levels.

Hiroki Totoki, CFO and Chairman of the Board of Sony, said:

“AAA-like titles on PS5, if we distribute that on subscription services, we may have to reduce the investment needed for that and that will deteriorate the quality of the first-party title and that’s our concern.”

He also clarified that it was in the best interest of the games themselves.

“We want to make sure we’re spending the right development costs to have solid products/titles to introduce in the right way.”

However, many consumers hear none of this and continue to point to Game Pass and their personal joy of having all these games for a fraction of their purchase cost.

Sony versus the consumer?

Sony declined to comment on Microsoft’s Game Pass, but they are busy with the new PlayStation Plus. Their approach, while still not great in my opinion, is a much more business-friendly version of Game Pass. They focus more on established titles and their back catalog. Note that I said “business friendly” and did not comment on consumer thoughts. I realize that many people want more games for less money than they spend on them. However, that is not how a business thinks or operates. They want maximum return on investment, which means balancing consumer desires with achievable investments and prices to maintain current quality and future growth. Basically, if you want something of a certain quality and on time, PAY FOR IT!

The Game Pass dilemma

Microsoft is moving full speed ahead with first-party titles coming to Game Pass on day one. They bought a bunch of studios specifically so they could put more titles on the service, because they knew most studios couldn’t make a big enough return on investment from running Game Pass alone. This is the same problem that ALL movie and series streaming services face. Content costs money, subscription fees are (mostly) fixed, and you need a lot of the latter to power the former. However, at any time, you, the consumer, can cancel the subscription and BOOM… the cash flow goes down. It’s not good for the business. So what are they doing to cut costs?

Well, as Sony said, put less money into game development. You also add in-game advertising like seen on mobile games. Oh wait… I believe Disney+ and HBO Max also have ad-supported tiers, and Prime Video runs skippable ads before things you’ve already paid to watch with your Prime fee. It’s almost as if gaming subscription services can see their future. Also, fewer games and longer life cycles will become more common. Basically games as a service for everyone, not just mobile and Free-To-Play.

Halo: Infinite Supported

The ecosystem trap

There is something scarier than less quality, less quantity and more annoying ads in games. Being kicked out of something you’ve spent a lot of time and money on. For your subscription fees to support game development, companies need you to be a subscriber. However, since you can cancel and revert at any time, this poses a huge risk to your earnings. The answer WILL be contracts. It can start with inducements to spend several years (I did this for Disney+ when it launched) and can progress to threats of losing your saves or data in the cloud if you don’t resubscribe for 180 days or some other arbitrary time, but they WILL NEED to lock you up.

It’s not me looking for Sony or attacking Microsoft. It’s business. As for my feelings as a consumer, I want my games to be as complete as possible (I HATE needing day one patches) and increasing in quality. I don’t want to have to wait for levels and stories to come out every six to eight months for 10 years to get the whole thing.

RELATED: Sony’s Game Pass ‘Competitor’ Officially Announced – PlayStation Plus, But New…and Better For You Than GP

What do you think of Sony’s comments on subscription services? What do you see in the future for the gaming industry? Let us know in the comments below!

THE SOURCE: Sony (Going through Eurogamer)

Joseph K. Bennett