Subscription services in games are certainly a contentious topic, and seemingly all AAA publishers are setting out to try and create their own version that provides value proportionate to the cost. However, in the current state of the gaming market, some subscription services are simply of much better value than others.
Whether you like the idea of subscription services or not, they are here to stay, as many publishers have seen a massive rise in popularity for their own subscription services, such as Microsoft's Game Pass or Ubisoft's Ubisoft+. Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, director of subscriptions at Microsoft Philippe Tremblay said that in order for subscription services such as Ubisoft+ to expand, gamers will need to become more comfortable not owning their games.
Tremblay is referring to one of the valid points used by people who don't like subscription services, and that is gamers surrender all rights to owning the game they are playing. Tremblay continued and said that consumers moved away from physically collecting CDs or DVDs through subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify, but the gaming industry is moving a bit slower than the two aforementioned transitions.
The hard truth is that gamers are already surrendering ownership of titles, as millions of gamers using Steam have all agreed to the platform's Terms of Service (TOS), which states that any violation of Steam's rules can result in Valve simply closing the Steam account without refunding any of the games purchased on it.
Looking to the future, it's more than likely that subscription services will continue to grow as they provide gamers more value, but I believe there will, at least for the foreseeable future, always be a certain percentage of gamers that will still choose to purchase a physical game over buying a subscription.
This same issue of ownership has presented itself in the streaming space, with some media owners complaining that TV shows/movies that never saw a physical release can be erased from history if the streaming platform chooses to remove them from its catalog. The same principle can happen for games exclusive to a subscription service, which is a point currently being argued by those who oppose subscription services.
There is no simple answer to the problem of ownership and subscription services, and some industry figures, such as Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, believe subscription services will never outpace individual game purchasing. This may be easy for Zelnick to say, considering Grand Theft Auto IV is teed up to be the biggest game launch of all time.