Brad Wardell's site for talking about the customization of Windows.
Published on January 30, 2019 By Frogboy In PC Gaming

I spend a lot of time looking at the sales of PC games and we are quickly moving away from the traditional individual purchase model and towards subscription based platforms.

Fundamentally, most titles simply don’t generate enough sales to justify engineering support post release. This is a relatively new issue that will be interesting to see how it gets resolved by studios.

 


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on Jan 31, 2019

I don't think going this route will work for you.   There's only so many developers that can do this, and it requires both a huge capital expense and a culture change that I don't think you'd like.

 

 

I see three types of game development in the PC space

AAA: mass market oriented, high eight digit budgets, massive risk/reward  (Blizzard, Rockstar, Netherrealm)

generally your AAA customers tend to make one game their life.

 

mid-tier: This is where Stardock and most of the games I play are:  mid six to low eight digit budgets, requires a specialist fanbase that the AAA market does not serve well.   Emphasis on serving the core customer.   The mid six figure sounds low, but I think of companies like Positech and Soldak which are kinda scaled down versions of what you provide.  Other examples of what I consider true mid-tier are Arcsys and Falcom.

 

I don't think the subscription model would be needed here, because the customers for mid-tier games tend to already support their games post-launch heavily- they tend to buy the expansion packs and DLCs if they feel the game/company has treated them right.

(I have no idea what your retention rate is for GalCiv III, though I suspect Founder's packs ate into them heavily)

 

indie tier: you're basically playing the lottery and hoping you make a game that goes viral because it's good and lucky.  If you do this, you have a chance to promote to the mid-tier if you want (Lab Zero is an example of this)

on Jan 31, 2019

Well, the original reason I got to know Stardock (and still have a current license) was through Object Desktop, which is a subscription model (because Microsoft just can't seem to build certain essential functionality into their system like a decent Start button customization and I was a Tiles user from the get go). 

If you end up going that route, I would like to have a publisher subscription tier for "anything Stardock develops for entertainment" much like how you bundle all of those apps through Object Desktop as I consider that to be a publisher subscription tier for "anything Stardock develops for Productivity), rather than individual game subscriptions as keeping track of individual subscriptions gets inconvenient very fast.  I think an a la carte model still works for individual applications at static stage (like you do for what you offer from Object Desktop), but the Object Desktop subscription model comes with a support and update guarantee where the individual programs can experience end of life (especially when Windows changed versions).

on Jan 31, 2019

I didn't say Stardock was going towards subscriptions.  I said the industry was.

Game developers won't move towards subscriptions.  The platform holders will.

 

on Feb 12, 2019

One thing that would help, we gamers need to be willing to see prices adjust for inflation.  Games have been $60 for over 15 years now, and before that, the were $50 for over 10.  It's unreasonable to expect this to continue without anything changing.

Doesn't excuse the horrible things game companies are doing, but it can help if prices adjust such that the profit margin isn't as tight.

on Feb 12, 2019

conversely it could be argued that same price x bigger potential audience = bigger potential revenue.

on Feb 12, 2019

Funny... I never planned on expanding any of my games other than Mission.  The idea had always been that you make it, it is what it is, and you move on too the next game instead of expanding the previous one.  You could, of course, expand any game the audience was asking too be expanded.  It seems like my model fits into the new world very, very well!

 

on Feb 13, 2019

If this refers to "renting" your game ...no ... which is why I like GOG , you own what you buy , you control how you use it , that is freedom

I see society moving towards never owning anything , cars, housing and maybe soon with connecting the internet to everything.. charging per use .. when you flush your toilet , when you open your refrigerator... no thanks to that way of life.. its too much GREED TO BEAR . I buy my cars , I bought my home , I buy my games.. not into renting and perpetual servitude to others controlling my use. I do not rent if I can help it , unfortunately I cant always avoid it. But if I cant even play my game today if I lapsed in my rental agreement that would be totally unfair.

Our world is sick, dog licenses , registration fees , renting your dog and renting your use of your car, ought to be illegal

I do realize I cant buy the highway so I pay tolls... but this renting and perpetually charging is a bad thing for consumers. If you had to rent your power meter, and we do , the company collects 1000 times its worth and you never can pay it off. its never enough even after 50 years of paying to be metered to pay for more ... really an evil scheme..

on Feb 14, 2019

JerkClock

One thing that would help, we gamers need to be willing to see prices adjust for inflation.  Games have been $60 for over 15 years now, and before that, the were $50 for over 10.  It's unreasonable to expect this to continue without anything changing.

Doesn't excuse the horrible things game companies are doing, but it can help if prices adjust such that the profit margin isn't as tight.

This is something I've argued for in the past. A big part of the reason for day one DLCs etc. is because of the rising cost of everything. Folks forget that developers also license plenty of things, from tech to music. Those costs go up. Unfortunately, I don't see gamers going for a higher RRP; if anything waiting for sales is becoming more common especially amongst PC gamers.

on Feb 14, 2019

For PC gaming, correct me if I'm wrong, but the cost of making games is much lower, thus the margins higher.  If so, it can kinda make sense for prices to be a bit lower in the PC market.  With Epic Games Store offering even higher margins and the lack of review bombing on said store making the SECAM region more viable, all the more profit can be had.

 

But yeah, gamers have been resisting price hikes, I do see gamers starting to the higher up front price as a lesser evil to continued anti-consumer measures, so there's hope.

on Feb 14, 2019

JerkClock

For PC gaming, correct me if I'm wrong, but the cost of making games is much lower, thus the margins higher.  If so, it can kinda make sense for prices to be a bit lower in the PC market.  With Epic Games Store offering even higher margins and the lack of review bombing on said store making the SECAM region more viable, all the more profit can be had.

 

But yeah, gamers have been resisting price hikes, I do see gamers starting to the higher up front price as a lesser evil to continued anti-consumer measures, so there's hope.

It depends, but consoles sell more copies. The barrier to entry on console keeps out a lot of the saturation you find on PC. Even a mediocre game on console can sell more units than a good game on PC with minimal difference in marketing.

What Brad says about a shifting to subscription models on platforms does seem inevitable though. Much like how music was the first industry to adopt digital sales en masse, film and television have adopted the digital subscription model en masse and it is working out for them.

Video games are not the trend setters some of us like to think.

on Feb 14, 2019

The problem is subscription based gaming models, even if consumers don't react to it with torches and pitchforks, is not as practical as it is for TV and ISPs.  Not unless you're talking about episodic content, but that has problems of its own.

It would require online servers of some sort, which costs the company money to maintain.  That's a HUGE disadvantage.  It's technically true of TV and ISPs, but they have the advantage of being considered something akin to household utilities, and for internet, it's a damned near necessity.

TV is also kind of a bad example, because it's slowly losing market share to online streaming, youtube, and netflix like services.   Even with Netflix, it only really works because you're simultaneously renting 50,000+ shows and movies for a low price(in fact, you were technically doing the same with a satellite or cable bill, just without the ability to decide WHEN your shows would play).  Onlive tried something similar with games and failed.  Putting individual games into a model like this, I don't see it working.

That's not to say an Onlive clone that sells itself better can't work, but the EA pie in the sky of making us pay $X per month until they decide to shut the servers down, it's unlikely.  MMOs only get away with it because of the massive amount of players one can interact with, have substantial costs from it, and you can't shoehorn MMO status into every game. 

on Feb 15, 2019

JerkClock

The problem is subscription based gaming models, even if consumers don't react to it with torches and pitchforks, is not as practical as it is for TV and ISPs.  Not unless you're talking about episodic content, but that has problems of its own.

It would require online servers of some sort, which costs the company money to maintain.  That's a HUGE disadvantage.  It's technically true of TV and ISPs, but they have the advantage of being considered something akin to household utilities, and for internet, it's a damned near necessity.

TV is also kind of a bad example, because it's slowly losing market share to online streaming, youtube, and netflix like services.   Even with Netflix, it only really works because you're simultaneously renting 50,000+ shows and movies for a low price(in fact, you were technically doing the same with a satellite or cable bill, just without the ability to decide WHEN your shows would play).  Onlive tried something similar with games and failed.  Putting individual games into a model like this, I don't see it working.

That's not to say an Onlive clone that sells itself better can't work, but the EA pie in the sky of making us pay $X per month until they decide to shut the servers down, it's unlikely.  MMOs only get away with it because of the massive amount of players one can interact with, have substantial costs from it, and you can't shoehorn MMO status into every game. 

We're not talking about OnLive. Just a subscription model. You'd still download and run the game on a local client. As for the entire "servers" argument, that is true of Steam already. If they go poof tomorrow your entire Steam library is gone with them. This is why only big platforms like what EA is going with Origin can realistically do this. Discord is also doing this now with Nitro.

on Feb 15, 2019

SchismNavigator


We're not talking about OnLive. Just a subscription model. You'd still download and run the game on a local client. As for the entire "servers" argument, that is true of Steam already. If they go poof tomorrow your entire Steam library is gone with them. This is why only big platforms like what EA is going with Origin can realistically do this. Discord is also doing this now with Nitro.

Onlive was a MINOR point about how a subscription based model could, at least theoretically, work.  And Steam is a poor example, because they're not making subscription dollars from consumers, but shaving money off the top from developers, that's a WHOLE different thing.  It's technically still driven by consumer sales, yes, but still not subscription based, and it's library is massive, and certainly not a single game.  So, even if Steam WERE subscription based, which it ISN'T, it wouldn't be an example for this topic.

Edit - It occurred to me you may be making the point that non-multinational companies could use a steam-like service to get around server costs.  In theory, this could be true, in practice, it's hard to say.  Valve would have to okay such measures first, it remains to be seen if they'd willingly do so while others like Epic Games Store and GoG could take away any business they lose if this generates ill will.  Valve's previous missteps with Steam are arguably why Epic Games Store has consumers and GoG has remained afloat as is. 

This would also only solve for the PC market in the first place, in the console market it just isn't happening any time soon, see XBONE and PS4 competing launch announcements for why.

Basically what I'm saying it isn't as simple as "we can get consumers to pay more, therefor it's more lucrative", and that other markets use it with success is not a measure of whether the game market can or not.  Those other markets lent themselves to it more naturally, there's always a reason why they DID and games DIDN'T.

Again, I can see a Netflix for games or episodic model dominating, but a scheduled fee for games is only ever going to happen with MMOs.  That's not to say companies can't or won't try it elsewhere, but there are too many reasons beyond just consumer backlash why it can't and won't work out for them.

on Feb 15, 2019

galciv3 - самая большая игра

on Feb 16, 2019

I suspect in a few years most gamers will be subscribing to multiple game services for $10 per month. It’s going to go the same route the movies and music have gone imo.

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