The Ultimate Decision: Why Game Subscription Services Just Aren't for Me

We live in the age of digital games, and the age of digital entertainment generally. Bearing this in mind, it seems like it’s a good time to be a subscriber to any number of game subscription services. Microsoft seems to be gradually taking over the world, one game at a time. But now that I’ve spent a fair amount of time with various game subscription services, I realise that my gaming ethos does not mesh with them at all. Let’s explore why I have ended my relationship with game subscription services for good.

The Rushed Gaming Dilemma

A Matter of Time and Enjoyment

I’m a video game fanatic. And that means I like to immerse myself in each new pixelated world: finding every secret or talking to every character I can. But game subscription services, like the one offered by Microsoft, often prohibit that. Because I have to get my money’s worth, I find myself rushing through games, which is more of a chore than an enjoyable experience.

The Casual Gamer's Conundrum

Balancing Time and Money

Those playtimes will of course shrink as life grinds on, as you get wrapped up in more grown-up things to do. But then we come back to our central dilemma. What many people like about subscription models is their cost-efficiency: for the same amount of money, you get a lot more play. But for a casual gamer with a backlog of games to get through, it’s those moments where the inherent value of the subscription model turns against you. The longer one game is going to take you to plough through, the less cheap it becomes.

Digital Ownership: A Double-Edged Sword

Lending, Selling, and the Inflexibility of Digital

Remember how you could just pop a game cartridge out of a console and hand it to a friend, to share a favourite game in a gesture of goodwill and filial affection? There was a naive innocence to physical game sharing, whose digital-first emphasis made the subscription services so novel. Go back and reread the Microsoft statement on flexibility around Xbox Game Pass. Despite the positive spin, the truth is that digital lending – digital reselling – isn’t anywhere near as flexible as it sounds. In addition to derailing the sharing culture between gamers, the switch to a digital-first world puts extra strain on the wallet of the average gamer.

The Disappearing Act of Digital Games

Vanishing Titles and the Quest for Permanence

Another of the safe, cosy features of subscription services is their ever-rotating library of games that come and go on a regular basis. This is one of the purported benefits of the arrangement – but it’s also a reason that games can disappear overnight. The inherent ephemerality of these digital libraries – even on the relatively stable Microsoft Game Pass – brings a kind of churn and transience to gaming I’m not comfortable with. The permanence of game ownership, the kind of which is becoming increasingly uncommon in the world of ‘subscription gaming’, is something that should be valued.

A Library Too Vast: The Paradox of Choice

Quantity vs. Quality

Even hundreds of games is a magical number, right? But it also represents the paradox of choice, where the vastness of a subscription library makes it harder to devote the necessary time and attention to individual titles, because that’s simply the way that gaming works. The more and the wider, the less invested enjoyment becomes. While the promise of discovery can be a virtue in a streaming subscription for music, games actually require increasingly narrow focus. I miss, if that’s the word, having a limited and manageable number of games I can actually get into.

The Price of Playing: Subscription Costs on the Rise

A Growing Financial Commitment

The games industry is no different, with subscription services serving as a good example. As these slowly creep up every year – Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass has just seen its price increase for the first time – what might have been a budget-friendly proposition starts to become less so. If you enjoy waiting for titles to drop in price before giving them a try, the financial benefit of having access to the latest services disappears fairly quickly when it comes to purchasing practically every game under the sun.

Finding the Silver Lining: The Personal Gaming Journey

About Microsoft

Microsoft is one of the biggest tech/gaming companies in the world, a real pioneer in innovation; I believe they’re set to shake up the entertainment future itself. From its console Xbox, and now its subscription Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft are leading an accessibility insurgency in gaming – by allowing gamers to play over 100 games on Xbox Game Pass, from the biggest franchises to smaller, quirkier titles, across a range of genres. Microsoft has championed access with aplomb, regardless of my concerns about subscriptions. In whatever form the future of the games industry takes, we may be seeing more and more models that combine the best of both worlds: the freedom of subscription, and the permanaence and ownership of buying individual games.

Jun 10, 2024
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