Why Seemingly Every Company Is Launching a Gaming Subscription Now

Google Stadia Controller
Google Stadia Controller
Photo: Gizmodo

Much in the way that streaming has too many damn options now, gaming services are flooding the market as companies increasingly position themselves to compete for attention over singular domination of an entertainment medium. Netflix, for example, disclosed in an earnings report earlier this year that it viewed itself as competing with “Fortnite more than HBO.” If a recent survey is to be believed, they may be on to something.


According to a recent survey from professional services company Deloitte, more millennials—which the survey identified as people up to age 35—now have gaming subscriptions (53 percent) than do those who paid for traditional television subscriptions (51 percent), which includes cable, satellite, and fiber. Millennial gaming subscriptions were up significantly from last year (44 percent), back when paid television subscriptions still had the lead with 52 percent.

The findings were published as part of Deloitte’s 13th edition of its digital media trends survey, which sampled 2,003 consumers between December 2018 to February 2019. According to the firm, while the number of gamers in the U.S. has more or less stayed the same, the way that people are gaming in the last few years has also seen a notable shift as PC gaming dips and mobile gaming continues to grow.


“A key behavioral trend across media and entertainment consumption is that consumers are more actively building their own collection of services and tailoring their own entertainment experience, which increasingly includes options outside traditional forms of entertainment,” the survey stated. “The gaming penetration level among millennials is higher than Pay TV penetration, an indication that younger adults are less likely to be satisfied with traditional entertainment choices.”

This shift of younger generations’ preference toward cherry-picking their entertainment experiences rather than and away from traditional media is not lost on the companies who stand to profit from it. A quick refresher: Among the big players are Microsoft’s xCloud, Google’s Stadia, and Apple’s Arcade—all of which are slated to release this year. And while a totally different arena—though no doubt still looking to hook your attention—there’s also boutique gaming subscriptions like the unique model that Playdate is bringing soon.

It’s pretty obvious at this point that the biggest players in entertainment are looking to grab a slice of that sweet streaming pie that’s currently dominated by behemoths like Fortnite and Netflix. The rise of services means they’re ready to serve you content. But the process of streaming games comes with a lot more technical hurdles than serving up the latest episode of Stranger Things. It also means a new era of not owning the games you play.

The biggest question for this burgeoning new sector is whether those same millennials that are already paying monthly gaming subscriptions are ready to go all in on the bet that big tech’s making.


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While paying monthly is annoying and can get expensive very fast, without subscriptions we only have these options:

1. $60/game for a quality console game, most of which now pressure you to then spend $15-20 a pop for add-on content. If it’s multiplayer, then you’re pretty much obligated to get the add-on packs (levels) in order to play with most people.

2. Free smartphone games, with shallow and repetitive game mechanics and high pressure to make in-app purchases.

The subscription model might be the only thing that gives us quality games without the add-on or freemium money grabs and still supplies publishers with enough revenue to keep investing in development of deep quality games. But in the long run there will need to be some platform consolidation because most people will not maintain multiple subscriptions with Microsoft, EA, Apple, etc.