What does subscription based content mean for the future of entertainment?

It’s clear that the way we consume entertainment has completely changed. There was a time you had to wait to get the paper, or watch the news on TV to get an idea of what was going on in the world. I remember growing up the only way I knew about other video games was from Nintendo Power, EGM, Game Informer, etc. The internet killed print magazines and made it so a lot of information became more accessible to us. Along with the internet came the explosion of piracy. That connection the internet provided put companies in a losing battle when it comes to protecting their assets. It became painfully obvious that companies were going to have to find a different way to make money on their investments.

IMO the biggest change was the smartphone. It made it so we didn’t have to wait until we got home to find new information, or be entertained. We began to consume information and entertainment at a pace never seen before. This presented a great solution for companies (one that we are seeing take over the market): Instead of using advertising to be a vehicle for the product which we are going to lost money on anyway, use the product to be a vehicle for the advertising.

The success of free to play games, microtransactions, and dlc, was all the proof companies needed, to see where they had to take their business to be successful. Consumers have an insatiable thirst for new content, and have shown that they are less willing to pay up front for that content. They pay in other ways though, one of the biggest ways being with their time; and time is the asset companies have been leveraging with consumers. It would seem the transaction between companies and consumers is: “You want this form of entertainment for free? Here you go; but if you want it free of any time wasters, you’re going to have to pay this small fee”.

So here’s the question: “What does subscription based content mean for the future of entertainment?” MS Game Pass, PS Now, EA Access, all take away the ownership factor from our entertainment, which if any of you remember, was a sore spot for companies against Game Stop sales (and the used market in general), where they saw their games being sold multiple times but they only got money for the original sale. The trade-off is although consumers do not have ownership of the product, they are given access to a much larger library. This also presents different challenges though. In the music industry we are seeing a huge battle going on in regards to how artists are compensated for streams. What is a stream worth? This leads me to look at the shift we are slowly seeing in the console gaming market and wonder: “Will we see a similar battle in the near future with game companies?” How will they be compensated? Because one thing should be troubling to you as a consumer and even more so if you’re a creative, if creatives are not compensated fairly, the content we consume will suffer greatly.

Will all games eventually move to a subscription based model, or a free to play model? Will the price of games decrease but include massive amounts of DLC? What happens each time a person plays a game on a subscription, or streams that game, how are companies compensated? These questions are important because if the creatives are not compensated fairly, they will be left with no choice but to ramp up on microtransactions, dlc, commercials; basically leverage time against the consumer in order to make up for potential lost revenue which ultimately destroys the experience.

As a consumer: I’m big on content ownership. I care very much about having as much control as possible over the content I purchase. I’m not oblivious to reality though; I understand 100% that we are headed to a primarily (if not all) digital age. The convenience digital platforms offer far outweighs the pros of physical media. I don’t like the level of (perceived) control I lose by going digital, but It’s something I’ve learned to accept, and I’m fine with it.

As a creative: I worry about the art that drives the content we love being stripped away due to the deployment methods. The compensation structure on streaming platforms is highly questionable. The chaos in the music industry right now concerns me very much about the future of the video game market. Right now, there is no official set price per stream on music. Before the inception of streaming, creatives would get paid for each rotation of the song; this is no longer the case with streaming and many creatives have been very vocal about this. The figures are not clear but I’ve heard reports about albums needing to be streamed 100 times to count as a single album sale. This is ludicrous and robs creatives. Terrestrial radio has to pay royalties per record spin, the rules of compensation for content should not be different based on the deployment platform. In the video game market, how will compensation be structured on a subscription model? Will developers be payed every time a game is downloaded or streamed? Video games often times cost much more than a music album to create, and I do not believe developers will be as willing to take the perceived losses. I believe the compensation structure will continue to be a mess which will force developers to implement alternative sources of income. My concern is that the future of the video game market will be filled with soul-less, ad-driven, DLC, micro-transaction laden unfinished content.

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