Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Could Games Succeed in a Netflix-like Service?

Yesterday I started to download nothing less than eight games from my PlayStation Plus service, for the good price of free. Some are really great games, like Little Big Planet 2 and inFamous 2, games I wanted to play but due lack of a budget great enough to buy all games I want to, I decided to let it go. Now I will have a great opportunity in playing some great games. But it also made me think if games can go the way of movies an work in a service like Netflix.

Netflix is a subscription base movie rental service, where you pay a monthly fee an can watch as many movies and TV shows are available in the service for as long as you want. By what I understand, Netflix pay the movie studios and TV show owners based on how much times their products are visualized (I may be wrong here, so correct me if the case). This was a smart move for the industry because people would legally be able to see movies and shows cheap, with everyone getting paid in the process. But would the game industry benefit from this practice?

I am not talking about a service like GameFly, but about a digital service. Not a streaming service either (for now), like onLive. I am talking about downloading full games and playing them while you pay for the service to play every game you want as long as you pay for the service. Would it work? At first, I would never say it would, but now I think, with how Sony is handling PS+, it could work.

The first step is pricing it in a way that gamers will find it tempting. I think the top price to this work would be US$60, the price of on single game, were you can play all games available to the service in that period, like Crackle do. Crackle is a video service with a limited monthly selection, what would work great for games. in my opinion, but with a fee. For the price of one brand new game a month, you would have access to all games, for example, launched in that month for 30 days, legally. It would kill the used market, since it would be cheaper than trading old games to get new ones, while people would play all games, not just a few selected titles.

The money would be shared between the service owner and the publishers of those games, with titles who are played the most receiving a proportional bigger part of the money. That would force developers and publishers to raise quality of the games, as the more people play their games, more money they would receive. The publishers who use famous names in the label (like movie tie-in games) and deliver a bad game would have trouble making money, because with limited HDD space and time, people would more likely avoid playing games that they aren't sure of quality.

People would not have paid money for this if they could avoid.
Since we have limited time and limited space, we would have to choose what games to give a chance and what not the same way we do today, but paying less. And after playing the games for 30 days, we would have a clearly idea of what is worth keeping and what is not.

Of course, if you really liked the game, you still would have the option to permanently buy it, so even if you stop paying the service or your 30 days period pass, you would still have access to the game. That would make developers to have to make such a good game that is worth keeping, either by making new content or to keeping a high replay value. If the game is really good, people would pay to keep them, making the developers and publishers win twice, with part of profits from the service and selling full games.

Also, they could keep pushing DLC (who would not enter in the free games access) but they would have to make them really great, because nobody would pay for a DLC like a single alternate custom if they would not keep the game anyway.

Of course, to this system work, we need the provider to be reliable and specially to provide ways were I can keep playing the games even if the service is off-line(that is why I don't think streaming services would work). For example, if the service is going in maintenance or something happen, give us a 24 hours of off-line play before needing to check it out in the web again, so we will not lose the ability to play for something is not our fault. So, even if our own internet is down, we can keep playing until it is established back.

With a cheap, reliable service with great variety in games, we would have more people playing games, paying for the service. With less used sales and piracy, game companies would likely see more money incoming, while having to make games more worth our time and with better replay value so we would be tempted in keeping them. In the end, a rental service like suggested seems would be good for everyone, gamers and the industry. 

What you think?

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