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GDC State of the Industry: Devs torn on whether subscription services devalue games

'Payback rates for most content creators in subscription-based models cannot justify the cost to make the products subscribers use,' writes one respondent in the GDC 2020 State of the Industry report.

January 29, 2020

3 Min Read

Hey game makers, don't forget: the results of the eighth annual State of the Industry Survey were released to the public last week, highlighting notable game industry trends ahead of GDC 2020 this March!

This long-running survey compiles responses from game industry professionals around the world, and this year's results suggest devs are displeased with Steam's standard 30 percent cut and showing heightened interest in developing for next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. 

Download your free copy of the 2020 State of the Industry report here!

Many more interesting insights are contained in the full report, touching on everything from how game devs are feeling about the state of cross-platform multiplayer to where they sell their games and why.

Today, we wanted to take a quick moment to tease out another intriguing finding from the report about whether or not the rising tide of game subscription services (Apple Arcade, Xbox Game Pass, Google Play Pass) has game makers worried about the devaluation of individual games.

Game makers are torn on whether subscription services will devalue individual games

As more and more game subscription services debut, we wanted to poll our audience of game industry professionals to get a sense of whether they think these services (like Apple Arcade, Xbox Game Pass, and others) will diminish the value and market potential of individual games.

Game makers appear to be torn; 27 percent said they think subscription services will devalue individual games, 26 percent said no, and 28 percent said maybe. Another 18 percent said they weren’t sure, suggesting the game industry at large is just as curious as we are to see how these services affect the market.

"I feel the f2p ad-based strategy is driving the mobile market into a crappy one, full of clickbaity small experiences,” wrote in 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.”

"The payback rates for most content creators in subscription-based models cannot justify the cost to make the products subscribers use,” wrote another. “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."

"Subscription-based models enable certain product types that a standard boxed-product model does not,” added another respondent. “I expect a variety of purchase models will continue to exist, and I'm hopeful that enough developers are choosing the right model for their games."

GDC 2020 runs from Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 20th. This will be the 34th edition of GDC, and now that registration is officially open, you'll want to take a look at the (ever-expanding) session schedule and your GDC pass options -- register early to lock in the best price!

For more details on GDC 2020 visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via FacebookTwitter, or RSS.

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