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XBox (Games) Games

Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games (theguardian.com) 142

Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
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Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games

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  • sega channel (Score:5, Informative)

    by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @12:41PM (#54313731) Homepage
    sega did this in the mid 90s and it was a great service for its time. got a few games a month that you could play through a dialup modem. I wondered why no one has done it since.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And atari before it with the GameLine (later QuantumLink)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GameLine

    • For a more recent example, there's Playstation Now. It's not exactly what they're talking about, being for previous generation games specifically, but it's the same model type (and actually does work pretty well, or at least did for the trial period).

    • And Nintendo Japan did something similar with satellite: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      Adding to the list, I was happily subscribed to Metaboli for a fair while.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      People have done it since. This is basically what GameTap was, even including the funding of original content.

      Comparing this to Netflix though, and then saying, "It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes." - This is the opposite of how Netflix does it.
  • Keep innovating, Microsoft!
    • Exactly, why don't they just get Steam on? SteamOS hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, taken off: most of their games are still best on Windows. So MS should just partner w/ Steam and get their platform completely supported on Xbox, so that one can play any Steam game on their Xbox. I'd actually buy an Xbox if they do that.
  • Steam? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @12:48PM (#54313787)
    Isn't this just describing Steam?
    • Re:Steam? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2017 @12:54PM (#54313835)

      No, steam is not a subscription service. You buy each title you want, once, and that's it. If you want the dlc, you pay a separate unlock fee, once, to get it.

      This is a monthly payment, and you get access to all the titles and all the dlc for them (however many your hard drive can hold), and you can swap them out and play them as much as you want....until you cancel the subscription; when you lose access to all of them.

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )
        Ok, "Origin Access" then?
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        No, steam is not a subscription service. You buy each title you want, once, and that's it. If you want the dlc, you pay a separate unlock fee, once, to get it.

        This is a monthly payment, and you get access to all the titles and all the dlc for them (however many your hard drive can hold), and you can swap them out and play them as much as you want....until you cancel the subscription; when you lose access to all of them.

        It's going to be more like a Pay/Cable TV subscription. With the basic package, you only get access to a limited set of semi-popular games. To get access to the full catalogue, you need to pay for the gold package. Want DLC, you can pay a nominal sum for a DLC package per game.

    • Not really. Steam is like buying DVDs off of Amazon. You own (sort of) the product and you don't have to keep paying a subscription fee to maintain access.

      This sounds like a model where you pay a subscription fee and can just play whatever games are available through the service. If you quit paying, you lose access, but otherwise you can play whatever game you want through the service. There have already been a few different services that have tried this in the past, and some more recent ones as well (I
    • Or EA Access for that matter. EA Access is an annual subscription service ALREADY available on the XBox that gives you "free" copies of older EA games, early beta access, and 10 hour trials of the newer titles. If you like the games, you can buy them at a discounted price from the EA store.

      So, yeah, it doesn't sound like Microsoft is doing much "innovation" here. They are just ripping off and expanding on an existing service already available to XBox customers.

    • Go on... in what way is it remotely like Steam? I'm curious to know what you were thinking when you posted this?
    • No, they're describing World of Tanks.

  • Netflix vs. YouTubwe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 )

    If a future offering from Xbox is the Netflix of video games, then what's the YouTube of video games?

  • by cfalcon ( 779563 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @12:53PM (#54313829)

    I very much hope this fucking fails.

    The business models are completely different. Every mode of distributing games for cash has FULLY influenced how games are designed. If you make a game that sells at a store, it has to fit on whatever media you are selling it on (pretty easy these days), and it has to be complete. If everyone has internet connections, you can ship a halfassed game with a fraction of content instead, and we see that. If you can do in-app purchases, then a science will spring up about how best to trick and exploit your customers- start with a free, fair and fun game, then gradually ramp up the difficulty until it is either an expensive, fair, and fun game, or a free, unfair, and unfun game. And we see this too, and not to a small degree- there's huge expensive studies done about how best to rip people off.

    So, what does a subscription based service incentivize? First of all, shitty games that look good enough to justify a subscription, games with artificially long end-points such as MMOs, and of course, the same in-app purchases. Basically, it has the worst commonalities of all the existing models. But wait, there's more! If the subscription is, say, 15 a month, then that's not enough to pay for free access to like 5 good MMOs and two dozen good first person shooters. How do you divide the 15 a month anyway? By the games played by each person? It ends up having the same compensation issues that Spotify does, except unlike performers, you don't go on tour with your game- your distribution is your entire model, full stop.

    There's almost no way that, even if highly supported and well liked, this is sustainable. This is just middle-men engaging in huge rent-seeking, and they will be the only ones to possibly make any kind of cash out of this, which will be entirely on the backs of any developers.

    A more optimistic view is to offer temporary access to older games, for people who like them but don't want to go through the drama of maintaining their ability to play them separately for long periods of time. That's the best case scenario, and not the one they are talking about. I suspect even that would fail too.

    And I'm sure this would be just more Windows-specific garbage (Xbone also runs Windows, AFAIK), as if the world needs more of that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Anytime I read 'the Netflix of....' I just chuckle.

      I'm working on the Netflix of toilet paper. Its gonna wipe the competition away.

    • There's no reason the subscription has to be tied into DLCs. They're already separate and very merchant-dependent.

      Depending on who makes and/or publishes the game, there is already (in the current market) some combination of:
      1) Purchase price
      2) DLCs that add more playable content
      3) DLCs that basically add cheats (better weapons, more skills, powerups, etc.)
      4) In-game microtransactions to speed up some part of the gameplay
      5) Cosmetic add-ons
      6) Full-fledged expansions
      7) Deluxe editions, gold editions, yearly

    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      Fear not, Microsoft is expert at screwing up. Microsoft has years of experience find the best way to create the most spectacular product failures ever. Examples of their long running success of showing other companies what not to do include:Zune,Kin,Windows Me,Windows Mobile. Internet Exploder 6 and their most successful product failure, Microsoft Bob.

  • They have this (Score:5, Informative)

    by utahjazz ( 177190 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @01:00PM (#54313897)

    I already pay Microsoft about $60/year for a subscription service that allows me to download and play games. It's called XBox Live Gold. Perhaps no one told the new boss at XBox about?

  • by bigdady92 ( 635263 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @01:02PM (#54313919) Homepage
    Give me more games per month on xbox live and make sure I can play them forever on xbox live. Charge an additional 9.99$/mo to give me games on release day that I can play as long as I have an active XBL account. Honestly once I beat a game there's very little reason I need to keep it on my shelf, in my system, or other type of media. I have HORDES of old games that collect and the chance of me playing .0001% of them is slim to none.

    I'll take a modern service that gives me all my content+new content for a very low monthly rate.
    • "Why can't it be both?"

      If the subscription model is optional, then that's fine, but I'm worried it will become mandatory. There's no reason why I should keep paying for my small selection of games forever because people like you keep buying tons of crap that isn't good enough to play more than once.

  • by Artem Tashkinov ( 764309 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @01:04PM (#54313939)

    Let me translate this marketing talk into something that average people would understand: "Let's milk our customers for as long as possible by first selling them an early alpha and then, while solving critical bugs, adding some missing features so that the game doesn't look and feel like a demo product".

    Sorry, this is such a shitty concept it must die. Games in 80s, 90s and early 00s were released as complete final products and rarely if ever received any patches or DLCs. Now with the advent of a high speed Internet connection, even operating systems are offered as beta products (I'm looking at Windows 10). This is all done to save money on QA/QC and to increase the profits of game publishers (not, not developers) - the companies which basically do nothing, except clever often misleading marketing.

    • CEO: "We want to get more money for selling games."

      Marketdroid: "Users are not willing to pay more than $60 per game."

      Bright Idea Guy: "I know! We will sell games as a service and charge $10/month. Our customers will LOVE it!"
      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        I spend more than $10/month on games. Shit, I spend $10/month on games just with one retailer, and they're nowhere near my primary source of new games.

        Anything under about $30/month for access to 80% of the games released more than six months ago and I'd be far better off.

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        There's got to be more to it than that. Very few people play one (and only one) game for 6 months straight, so right off the top the math you're providing is a losing equation. If you assume say, 1 week per game playtime on average (across all users and across all games,) then that means you're charging the user $2.50 for a $60 game.

        I somehow doubt that new releases would be on the service for a few weeks/months until the initial purchasing rush is over, and this is just a way to get you to pay $10/mo for

    • Sorry, this is such a shitty concept it must die. Games in 80s, 90s and early 00s were released as complete final products and rarely if ever received any patches or DLCs. Now with the advent of a high speed Internet connection, even operating systems are offered as beta products (I'm looking at Windows 10). This is all done to save money on QA/QC and to increase the profits of game publishers (not, not developers) - the companies which basically do nothing, except clever often misleading marketing.

      DLC is the name of the game.
      My sons are pre-teen, and they play various free games. They are amazed that they are free, cause they are sooo cool. (they suck) They see these youtubers (my least favorite word) prattling on about these games, and sit and watch them play them, and talk incessantly while doing so. But those games become popular, and if you get people hooked on it, you can sell them things. Upgrades/costumes/other levels, etc. It doesn't work on my kids, because I don't let it.
      This isn't a

  • Looking forward to games being randomly pulled in and out of the catalogue while I'm in the middle of playing them, at whim of always changing agreements between the streaming service and the publishers.

  • Sounds to me more like they want to eliminate people's ability to sell used games (because you'll never own a copy, only 'rent' it) and at the same time gain perpetual profit from the 'rental' of 'streaming' games to people. Basically, it's a return to the Video Arcade: you walked in with a pocketful of quarters, and left with your pockets empty. Also reminds me of the original DivX business model: they wanted you to buy a physical disc, but you'd have to pay a fee every time you wanted to watch it. I hope nobody falls for this.
    • AAA development keeps pricier. Cliff Bleszinski just wrote an article saying it's unsustainable. For every GTAV we get two Medal of Honors a Darksiders franchise and a Shenmue. Prices need to be raised, but folks wont' pay more than $60. Before you balk at that consider what a $55 copy of Lotus RECS for the Sega Genesis cost in 1992 adjust for inflation. It was about $110 bucks in todays money while Forza 5 sold for about half that and had hundreds if not thousands more features (especially if you count a
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Basically, it's a return to the Video Arcade: you walked in with a pocketful of quarters, and left with your pockets empty.

      I kinda take issue with how you phrased this -- as though the arcade gamer simply gave away his money for nothing. At the arcade, you were paying for the time you spent playing the games. Like many other things in life, sometimes money is exchanged for an experience alone, and just because you don't have a tangible good to show for the exchange doesn't mean you were cheated..

      • Do me a favor? Stop putting words in my mouth, okay? I never said anything about the value of the money you spent in an arcade, because I didn't think I had to say anything about it: it's implicit. But the fact of the matter is, that you tended to come in and spend what you had in your pockets. That's the only reason arcades existed as long as they did. When home games started reaching the point of parity with arcade games (or close enough at least) coin-op game arcades started dying off -- for that reason,
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday April 27, 2017 @01:14PM (#54314027)
    I do the old XKCD gag of playing old games on old hardware. I buy most of my games for
    Besides, this already exists and is called Gamefly.
  • Weird how all the big companies seem to believe the future lies with us continuously paying them for the privilege of their services without them actually suppling a permanent product.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Weird how you think this is weird. You may dislike it, but there's nothing inherently strange about it and there can be some pretty big benefits. Netflix of course being the prime example -- there's no way I could possibly afford to purchase everything I've watched on Netflix for full price, but between volume purchasing and amortization across shows, Netflix is able to provide a product that I wouldn't otherwise be able to obtain, even if its not "permanent."

      Whether or not this will work for video games

  • Like Netflix, you need to do it in a way that's, more or less, invisible to a consumer's monthly expenditures. If you roll something like this out at $20-30/m, people are going to tell you to kiss their ass. This is the #1 reason these buffet-style services never work. They are ALWAYS too expensive. $30/m will get you just about any game you want, if it's a bit older, and you get to KEEP it.

    $10-12? Now you're talking. Enjoy your paychecks.

  • With PlayStation Plus you get an initial "instant game collection" and then they add about 6 games a month to your list and as long as you're subscribed you can keep playing all of them. Pretty much sounds like we already have that....
    And Steam has PC pretty well covered

  • by knope ( 4837449 )
    as steam killed the physical pc media, and thus gamestores no longer stock, this will do the same. however, this would be nice if implemented in the manor of steam, and given microsoft uni-model vision this should make for interesting replay value of old games on new consoles.... i digress, PC MASTER RACE! lol
  • seriously. owning copys of things used to be so nice. not having to pay 9.99 for the rest of my life to play this one game that hasn't updated in 8 years come on.
  • This is the future, we have been heading there with VC, PS+, Xbox Live gold, MS Game Pass, EA Access. Gamefly doesn't work anymore. I signed up on a Wednesday, waited 8 days for a game to ship the following Thursday, then wait another 4 days for it arrive the following Monday. Mail the game back 2 Monday's later, they get notified from the post office 2 days later on Wednesday, but it's still "At home" in my Q on Thursday. So for a 1 month rental period that's 14 days of playing and 15 days of shipping
  • I get the Netflix analogy, but, ya know, Netflix is all-in on Amazon Web Services [datacenterknowledge.com] (not Azure).
  • This is exactly why I didn't get neither a PS4 or an XBox One. They already require a subscription for full functionality. The only reason I'm considering a Switch is because it sounds like it'll still be reasonably functional without having to pay for subscription too, even though Nintendo finally caved in and decided to join this crappy trend.

    Also, Spencer must have his head under a rock or something if he's just now realizing this crap . Playstation Now already exists, nVidia has Gamestream/GRID, Gaikai

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      PS4 doesn't require a PS+ subscription for general console-like functionality (ie: you can play games, including online games, without it.)

      PS+ primarily gives you cloud storage and periodic discounts/freebies in the PS store. Its not like XBox where you're practically forced into it.

      That said, I'm pretty sure the PS4 does at least require you to create a PS account. Which is annoying but its free.

  • "Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service."

    It is absolutely not new, it was called an 'arcade' forty fucking years ago. Guess what happened to the majority of them?

    They shut down as home gaming became possible/affordable.

  • It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes.

    Unfortunately it also means a game could get "cancelled" before it's complete if there aren't enough players to support it.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      The opposite is also true though. A game that would have traditionally been cancelled because its over budget/time/whatever may be able to hang on if there's enough players supporting it.

      Random speculation is fun.

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