This IDC Market Perspective reviews the recent push by several prominent game publishers and platform operators to beef up their game subscription offerings, including potential cloud-streamed gaming service launches in the next few years. The primary conclusion is that while TV-based subscription revenue is trending up, this is probably a temporary phenomenon in the context of direct game service subscriptions, and the substitutability of free-to-play games may start eroding demand for direct game subscriptions by 2021.
"At E3 2018, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft pushed a narrative that suggested the video game industry will inevitably move toward a subscription-based future," says Lewis Ward, IDC's research director of gaming and VR/AR. "This viewpoint is running headlong into the buzz saw of the free-to-play business model that doesn't comparably exist in other entertainment industries. Gamers are going to have a decisive say in what business model dominates in the future, and there's a strong case to be made that, long-term, it's a free-to-play future, not a subscription future."