Bioware’s Anthem Leads: Triple-A Games Suffer from Homogenization, Subscriptions Help Against That
Subscription services like Origin Access Premier and Xbox Game Pass are slowly trying to implement the Netflix-like model in the gaming industry.
In an interview with USGamer from PAX West 2018, Bioware's Anthem leads Mark Darrah (Executive Producer) and Michael Gamble (Lead Producer) said that subscriptions, much like in television, help against the very homogenization that's currently an open issue for AAA games.
Mark Darrah: You know I really like the idea of a subscription. If you look at Netflix we live in—I was going to say a 'golden age', ah fuck it—we live in a golden age of television because a subscription platform like Netflix allows Netflix or HBO or Amazon to take a lot more experiments, do a lot more different formats. If you look at the triple-A space we've become quite risk averse because games are all basically—they have same bar... and it all kind of means that they all have quite similar budgets and quite similar expectations and quite similar goals. And I think once you look in a world of subscriptions it opens the door to new possibilities. Like games that aren't intended to be played by more than 300,000 people but are built and budgeted accordingly.
Michael Gamble: You have your House of Cards for Netflix, but you also have your comedy specials or like your true crime documentaries, and it's not just genre which is different. Size and scale of those things—budgets and everything are different things. And as a person who subscribes to Netflix you're like 'I get all of that for my subscription' And then I can dabble, and I can choose like, 'Oh well you know that was cool I liked it but it was only an hour of my life so that's all right.' I don't have to be super invested.
Mark Darrah: What you see in television homes is a de-homogenization. There's more different television being made. And what I worry is happening in games, and triple-A in particular, is a homogenization. Games are getting more like each other. We're chasing, not the same audiences, but ever sort of convergent audiences—audiences with similar behaviors and play styles. And what I would hope that we see as subscription start to rise is the same kind of thing, a de-homogenization. Where more different kinds of things are targeted. Genres that don't even exist now can come into being and exist and maybe find a niche. Maybe that niche isn't very big, but it doesn't need to be that big because it can be addressed in a very different way.
Origin Access Premier launched in late July on PC, offering early and full access (priced at $99 per year) to all of EA's major titles like Battlefield, FIFA, and Anthem once it's released next year.
Meanwhile, Microsoft (which doesn't believe purchases to be fully replaced by subscriptions) is constantly trying to increase the value of Xbox Game Pass for its subscribers. This month alone, they've added Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Quantum Break and Onrush to the library.
Do you agree with the Bioware developers that subscription services such as the aforementioned can help against the homogenization of big-budget games? Or perhaps you agree with Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, who doesn't believe much in subscriptions and reckons gamers play a few high-value titles each month?