This gaming generation has certainly changed things. I hate to wax nostalgic, but back in the good ol' days, you used to pay for a game once and get all the content that game had to offer. Period. Now, you have to wait for DLC packs to get the full game experience. And the future of gaming? Well, it's starting now, and it involves paying subscription fees for individual games. We're already seeing this in Call of Duty with the "Elite" subscription service, and to a lesser extent with DLC "season passes" that offer bundled content that downloads automatically once activated. On a press release, this all may sound like a good deal. Don't be fooled! Paying subscription fees for individual games is a bad idea, and here are five reasons why.
You Probably Already Pay for Online Service
Alright, PlayStation Network and PC users, you can skip to the next bullet point. This one is for the Xbox LIVE junkies. It is bad enough that you've had a price hike in the past year. Now, on top of paying $60 for the ability to play online and pay for new content, you will have to pay $10-$30 to get subscriber-only content for your favorite games. And though you might not think about it, after a while, all this nickel and diming will add up over time. Which brings me to my next point…
You Like All Kinds of Games
If all you ever want to play is one game, and you're satisfied with the subscription-only offerings of that one game, then go for it. More power to you. But if you're like me, you like tons of games and your wallet gets a lot lighter during the fall gaming season. Now, imagine having to pay subscription fees for all of your favorite games. If you're keeping up with this year's releases, you may have already been tempted by season passes for Gears of War and Forza 4. And the newest iteration of Call of Duty is just around the corner with a new "Elite" service you can sign up for. If you're planning on picking up all of these games, you are already looking at over $60 in subscription fees. That's the price of a whole new game!
You are Paying More for Less Game Up Front
I touched on this a few weeks ago in "Why You Should Not Pay Real Money for Fake Things," but the same principle applies here. As consumers prove they are willing to pay more, developers are including less in the $60 game package than ever. If they can charge you that initial cost, plus a $20 or $30 subscription fee, there's less incentive for companies to put more in the initial box and more incentive to give you so-called "premium" content at a jacked-up price. Though we haven't quite gotten to the stage where gamers have to pay extra fees to see the ending of a game's story mode, I have a feeling that that's where we're headed. And that's a big loss for gamers.
Subscription Offers Features You Already Use (But Don't Know About)
One of the biggest features of the new Call of Duty: Elite service is a community aspect that allows you to connect with other Call of Duty players via a "Premium Groups" service. What exactly this is will remain a mystery until the service launches formally later this year, but I don't think it will be that much different than the experience you might get in unofficial forums and communities. Simply slapping the word "premium" on it doesn't seem likely to make it worth the subscription fee. Elite will also give subscribers access to an expert strategy center that posts walkthroughs and has pro video guides for specific maps and weapons. And while that sounds good on paper, Fans have been making detailed text-based and video guides for the Call of Duty franchise for years. And you are one Internet search away from all that content, for the low, low price of nothing at all. Though the biggest draw for the Elite service is its bundled DLC, many of the extra "premium" features aren't really that impressive when you realize you've already been using them in a different form.
The MMO Formula Doesn't Apply to Other Genres
When you subscribe to an MMO service, you get quite a bit. Constantly updated quests, literal worlds of content, and exclusive community features that are available as part of the game (instead of just tacked on). However, this doesn't apply to any other genre. When you subscribe to a shooter, for example, you might get a handful of map packs over the course of a year and some extraneous social content, but it is nowhere near the volume of content you get from an MMO subscription. MMOs like World of Warcraft can be played for years on end, since the wealth of content is there to justify logging in on a regular basis for a long extended period of time. Call of Duty just can't compete with something like that. Sure, playing multiplayer is fun, but at the end of the day you're doing the same things over and over again. Non-MMO games don't have the intrinsic longevity that MMO games have, and applying the subscription model to them just doesn't work on a conceptual level.
Subscription-based service for individual games is new territory, and one that it seems game companies are ready to tell us that we need. But charging extra money for an increasing number of AAA titles may not work as well with gamers as developers anticipate. It's hard to not feel like gamers are getting squeezed for more money (despite being offered the same experience), and I don't think we'll take it for much longer.
By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*