The same company that delisted a game and then re-released it is telling gamers to get comfortable with not owning their games. Yes, it is obvious that you do not own the digital game and are paying to license it. However, in a gaming industry that is gradually transitioning to a wholly digital experience, the consumer must come first. Offline play, actual console game options, and game key resale. These are a few steps that should be put in place to provide consumers with some peace of mind when engaging in this popular and pricey hobby.
2023 is a graveyard for games Spellbreak (dead), Rumbleverse (dead), Knockout City (dead), and Gundam Evolution (dead) to name a few. These are all online multiplayer games, I know, but what is to keep similar issues from creeping into digital-only single-player games? Most games launch with battle passes or other forms of microtransactions but no clear ability or guarantee to play the game past one year.
Going back to Ubisoft and what Philippe Tremblay, director of subscriptions at Ubisoft discussed in the Gameindustry.biz interview.
“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.”Philippe Tremblay, Director of Subscriptions at Ubisoft
Music, TV, and Movies Already Do It
It makes sense to compare gaming to the sales and consumption of music and television. However, you cannot ignore the blatant issues that occur. For example, shows are disappearing from the World Wide Web and all streaming services. Willow (TV Series) from Disney Plus is not legally available. The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is no longer available for purchase or viewing. You can’t even rely on purchasing digital movies to avoid losing access to them because you’re buying the license rather than the product.
Music is one area where there has been a minor trend back to physical media. I’m not sure if it’s because people want to personally support the artist or out of nostalgia. However, LPs and albums have witnessed a rise in sales. According to Billboard.com, the sales of vinyl records have been steadily increasing year after year over the past decade. As much as I enjoy my Spotify music if the service goes down for any reason. Years of music that I had discovered and fell in love with would go into the void.
When it comes to gaming, I frequently buy physical versions of my favorite Game Pass games. Most recently, I purchased Persona 5 Royal and would buy a physical version of Massive Chalice and Ashen if they were released. I cannot be the only one that supports physical game releases. But the fact that Alan Wake II, a Game of the Year (GOTY) nominee, does not have a physical version is concerning. A single-player game nominated for Game of the Year may disappear or become unplayable, like Scott Pilgrim versus The World: The Game did in 2014. And it could be due to a company’s decision to remove it from its online shelves, rather than power outages or a lack of internet connection.
“The point is not to force users to go down one route or another,” he explains. “We offer purchase, we offer subscription, and it’s the gamer’s preference that is important here. We are seeing some people who buy choosing to subscribe now, but it all works.”Philippe Tremblay, Director of Subscriptions at Ubisoft
Make It Easier For Gamers To Get Comfortable
Business is business, and I understand that companies prioritize profits. Money makes the world go round, among other catchphrases. However, in a world where an executive at fill-in-the-blank may eliminate an entire catalog of media in the name of cost-cutting. If we are to lean more heavily toward a digital-first future, consumers will require clearer types of protection or buffers.
I do not publish, develop, or sell games, but I do purchase a lot of them. The gaming industry appears to be in a strange situation, with record earnings while also experiencing record layoffs for profit. It’s not difficult to imagine similar decisions being made to remove single-player games from online stores at a quicker pace in the pursuit of profit.