All subscriptions succeed or fail based on the value they offer, but video game subscriptions have a unique opportunity to provide value in creative ways.
Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are doing great things with their respective game subscriptions. Sony's PlayStation Plus offers three separate tiers of across a vast library of titles, Nintendo Switch Online is essentially a vault of nostalgia that contains a dearth of beloved old-school video games, and Game Pass is arguably the best per-dollar value with over 400 games across PC and console. There's just a little something missing: Creativity.
These subscriptions offer value across a wide spectrum of gaming content but there's more ways to provide value outside of a massive games library. The games themselves might be unique, but there's not a lot of things that set these subscriptions apart in terms of form and function. The basics are the same across all three: Pay a monthly fee to play X amount of games.
Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are all constantly looking for ways to boost subscription value. We've seen things like discounts on game purchases, and even Xbox Game Pass perks like free Disney+ subscriptions and the like. These are all fantastic ways to boost value and should continue.
But what about creativity? All of gaming's Big 3 could do some really unique things for subscribers by exploring their respective multi-decade legacies. I think Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft need to go further than just offering old games--they should try to recreate those old experiences too.
I'm talking about the old manuals, the advertisements, the hype from magazine covers and old articles, and the general mystique of that era of gaming.
Here are some quick ideas:
Extra Digital Content - Magazines, Nintendo Power, etc
The average age of a gamer is in the 35-36 year-old range. These consumers grew up with video game magazines, and if you're like me, you miss the charm of this now-outdated media. Playing the Cowabunga Collection really brought back these old memories, and it's something that I think all of the Big 3 should explore.
Nintendo is in the best position to act on this idea.
What if Nintendo Switch Online included digital copies of the old Nintendo Power magazine? I mean, Nintendo Power actually featured massive guides for a lot of the games offered in the Switch Online library.
Sure it's a bit redundant now that YouTube exists, but it would go a long, long way for that audience of gamers who grew up with the magazines. And it would also be a neat little history lesson for new gamers too.
What if PlayStation Plus, Switch Online, and Game Pass also had a kind of interactive digital museum for console gaming? Ideally there would be history lessons with lots of info and nostalgic content to check out. Promo images of console launches, quotes and interviews from then-CEOs of the companies, pictures of the consoles' motherboards, you name it.
Box art from first-party games, manuals, original gameplay footage from the games' launches, etc. It would be a big undertaking to track all of that down but I think it'd be worth it.
We could see a kind of digital archive being presented either in a 2D magazine format or maybe even a 3D format, kind of like the old Encarta PC games.
Unique Emulation & Game Playlists
This one could be pretty challenging on a technical level and it may not even be possible.
One thing I love about Disney+ is how it offers playlists of certain episodes of shows. For example, there's an entire playlist that features the Simpson's Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials.
What if Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft did this for games?
The potential here could be huge. It could go from curated playlists of games that transcend simple genre sorting to a Must Play selection of titles sorted by an editor, or even an influencer, similar to Steam curated games.
We could have a one-click playlist that offers easy access to all of the God of War games, or the Halo games.
The most unique idea, though, is a kind of playlist of game levels that could instantly expose players to the best segments of a game.
My idea would be something like a playlist of all the hardest levels from the Super Mario Bros. games, or all the boss fights in Zelda.
It would be kind of like slices of games being separated from the full game and put together in a playlist.
We could see something similar offered in Halo games, too. The Master Chief Collection already does this, so there's that.
As for Sony, well they've already patented something that could actually lead to this feature, which is basically a real-time save state feature that would allow gamers to save a segment of a game, cut it out, and upload that segment for others to play.