How will subscription services affect the value of games? Developers are, at least for now, divided on the issue.
GDC has released its annual State of the Industry survey of 4,000 developers, over one-fourth of which were concerned such models would devalue games. But another fourth weren't worried at all. 28% acknowledged subscriptions "might" devalue games, and 18% said they didn't know.
"I feel the f2p ad-based strategy is driving the mobile market into a crappy one, full of clickbaity small experiences," said one respondent. "A fixed price for a huge list of free games to play might be a good way to give the video game art form some freedom back, so we can make good experiences that don't need to last more than it asks for just to make more money, engage, retain, monetize, and so on."
Another developer commented: "The payback rates for most content creators in subscription-based models cannot justify the cost to make the products subscribers use. This is true in every medium that has taken this approach in the last decade. Music artists do not make enough from Spotify, et al, to finance the production of future music...even the top tier artists. Why would games be different?
"Unless the lion's share of revenue from a subscription service goes to the game creators, it's untenable in the long term. And, even if the bulk of revenue diverts to the creators, it will still create a situation where large AAA studios able to create blockbuster-style hype will end up succeeding, while indies will receive even less than they already do."
Uncertainty may be one of the reasons why so few developers are, at least for now, using such a model to monetize. 8% of those surveyed said the game they were currently making would be part of an offering like Apple Arcade or Xbox Game Pass; 6% said they used a subscription specific to their game (such as a World of Warcraft subscription).
Far more popular are more time-tested models, with 43% working on a free-to-download title, and 45% making a pay-to-download game. Interestingly, while 22% said they had paid in-game currency and 22% said they had paid in-game items, only 8% are using loot boxes.
The full GDC State of the Game Industry survey can be accessed here, which includes topics such as developers' current plans for and interest in next-generation consoles, and concerns surrounding diversity, accessibility, crunch, and unions.