Destruction AllStars is the latest high-profile title to hit a subscription service. It’s time for the community to embrace this distribution model.
The release of Destruction AllStars is a curious one. While it was supposed to be a full-priced PlayStation 5 launch title, Sony opted to delay it to February and allow PlayStation Plus subscribers to pick it up for free. While the move could be read as Sony lacking the confidence to give Destruction AllStars a standard retail release, that’s not important relative to the principle underneath. This is a great move for consumers because it positions the newest PlayStation exclusive affordably by leveraging the value of subscription models.
For the millions who already have a PlayStation Plus subscription, Destruction AllStars is an engaging release that comes at no additional cost. This is a move that closely follows Xbox Series X|S‘ Game Pass release of The Medium, another tentpole exclusive-turned-subscription-incentive. Moves like these make embracing the subscription model even more essential, as the player-side value keeps growing.
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How Gaming Has Changed
Of course, the tension between the ownership and accessibility will always be a stumbling block, but the idea of owning a physical game disc is becoming more and more quaint. On-disc games becoming worthless for those picking up digital only consoles like the Xbox Series S and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. Bearing all this in mind, it’s easy to see why many won’t pivot to the extreme: subscription models.
Whether cloud-based like Stadia or download-based like Game Pass, any subscription service distances the player from ownership. It’s an unavoidable side effect of the games industry hurdling in the same direction of other media, whether that’s film or music. And, like those mediums, gaming’s surge toward the subscription model is being met by an influx of new services, all threatening to divide content to the point where someone has to subscribe to a handful of platforms just to fill their media diet. It’s overwhelming.
The Optimistic View of the Subscription Model
However, viewing the subscription glass as half-empty ignores how full of potential the model is. The value presented to the consumer is undeniable, and the landscape is moving in a direction where the games being put into subscription models aren’t second-rate. To the contrary, the success of the subscription model in 2021 is already showing Microsoft and Sony’s willingness to put exclusives and other high-caliber titles onto these services.
Both The Medium and Destruction AllStars are key examples of why the community needs to move past an older understanding of game distribution and ownership. Neither title represents the best of what either platform has to offer. However, they’re both uniquely engaging, experimental experiences that many probably couldn’t justified purchasing at full retail price. This means, when they’re being offered through subscriptions that most players already have, it’s far easier to play games that would’ve otherwise gone ignored.
These games certainly didn’t have to be distributed this way, and a console cycle ago they wouldn’t have been. The eighth generation was a period where games such as Ryse: Son of Rome and Knack were sold as boxed, full-price retail titles. Not only are both platform holders offering more interesting games during their launch windows now, they’re offering them for a baked-in cost. With how quiet both current-gen ecosystems are, The Medium and Destruction AllStars could’ve released primarily as retail games and made a modest profit off leveraging players starved for exclusively next-gen experiences. But that didn’t happen.
The Benefits of Competition
Bringing these games to subscription models is a result of the silver lining behind the aforementioned deluge of new services. Each has to compete for the player’s time and money. As more companies try to cash in on the subscriptions race, everyone has to prove why their service matters. This battle puts the player in the most enviable position: one where companies are fighting for their attention. This competition drives quality and value. It’s because of this that games, both exclusive and otherwise, are constantly offered to the player on these services.
Xbox is clearly winning on this front with Game Pass. Two of January’s biggest games, Cyber Shadow and The Medium, released on the service at no additional charge. Plus, legacy games are constantly refreshing the ranks alongside these new titles, creating an environment where an influx of exciting titles is the norm.
PlayStation is addressing the service market differently, but working just as hard to keep its players busy. PlayStation Plus offers only a handful of titles each month, but Sony has start 2021 off strong by offering comparatively meaty titles. There’s Destruction AllStars, but Control: Ultimate Edition, Concrete Genie, Maneater, GreedFall and Shadow of the Tomb Raider have all been offered this year too. PlayStation Now regularly receives new titles as well, and PlayStation 5 owners have access to the robust PlayStation Plus Collection.
Sony and Microsoft vying for the consumer’s subscription is resulting in more excellent titles being offered for relatively low costs. This comes at the perfect time. In a landscape where AAA games are starting to cost $70 USD, the value of these services becomes better and better. It’s through subscriptions that players can safely take chances on titles like Destruction AllStars.
Services re-contextualize value and make individual game purchases seem much less palatable. This will only become clearer as the battle to win the consumer’s dollar gets more intense. Letting go of traditional ownership and distribution is hard, but the player exchanges those for the flexibility to experience more of the industry at a value that’s growing exponentially. If this is the future of gaming, it’s one that’s worth embracing.
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