An executive at Assassin’s Creed maker Ubisoft has said gamers will need to get “comfortable” not owning their games before video game subscriptions truly take off.
Speaking to discuss the launch of Ubisoft’s new Ubisoft+ Premium and Ubisoft+ Classics subscriptions, Philippe Tremblay, director of subscriptions at Ubisoft, explained to GI.biz what needs to happen before subscription services become a more significant slice of the video game business.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but when you look at the different subscription services that are out there, we’ve had a rapid expansion over the last couple of years, but it’s still relatively small compared to the other models,” Tremblay said.
“We’re seeing expansion on console as the likes of PlayStation and Xbox bring new people in. On PC, from a Ubisoft standpoint, it’s already been great, but we are looking to reach out more on PC, so we see opportunity there.
“One of the things we saw is that gamers are used to, a little bit like DVD, having and owning their games. That’s the consumer shift that needs to happen. They got comfortable not owning their CD collection or DVD collection. That’s a transformation that’s been a bit slower to happen [in games]. As gamers grow comfortable in that aspect… you don’t lose your progress. If you resume your game at another time, your progress file is still there. That’s not been deleted. You don’t lose what you’ve built in the game or your engagement with the game. So it’s about feeling comfortable with not owning your game.
“I still have two boxes of DVDs. I definitely understand the gamers perspective with that. But as people embrace that model, they will see that these games will exist, the service will continue, and you’ll be able to access them when you feel like. That’s reassuring.
“Streaming is also a thing that works really well with subscription. So you pay when you need it, as opposed to paying all the time.”
It’s fair to say Tremblay’s comments haven’t gone down well with some gamers who prefer to buy their video games on-disc as opposed to downloading them or streaming them. But it’s worth pointing out that Ubisoft, like many other video game publishers, does still release its games on-disc, and while digital sales have grown as a portion of overall sales over the years, a significant portion of players still prefer to own their games.
Tremblay’s comments also bring up the issue of video game preservation. As more games go down the digital route or rely upon an internet connection to work, so does the risk that these games are lost to time when their servers are shut down. Developer Remedy Entertainment was heavily criticised for releasing Alan Wake 2 as a digital-only video game to keep the price below $70.
The physical versus digital debate is sure to grow ever more vociferous as more publishers consider our perhaps inevitable all digital future. Last year, the leaked news of Microsoft’s plan for a slim version of the Xbox Series X shocked gamers because it mentioned the hardware wouldn’t have a Blu-ray drive. As Xbox boss Phil Spencer said at the time, these plans may have changed.