Subscription-based gaming saves your bucks – A discussion


The digital revolution heralds many changes in the gaming industry. It has opened up new possibilities for game developers and creators to reach a wider audience and choose new financial models. The penetration of the internet not only allowed them to make their products and services accessible to people, but it also reduced the costs; thus, making them cheaper and affordable for everyone’s appeasement.

However, the ease of access to movies and games has also made it difficult for developers to effectively monetize their creations. The popularity of online services like iTunes and Beatport have proved that it has become increasingly challenging to motivate people to spend on physical copies of something that are available at the click of buttons.

The change in consumers’ shopping behavior has also compelled developers to look for new revenue models. Among these models, the subscription-based services have become a ‘talk of the town.’ 

Insights from an in-depth survey by McKinsey & Company provided a fascinating glimpse into the current state of the subscription-based economy. In the survey, the research team interviewed 5,093 respondents, 4,057 of which were online shoppers. The study found that 15 percent of the respondents have subscribed to an ecommerce service over the past year, and 46 percent of them subscribed to an online streaming media service like ClassPass, Netflix, Shopify, and others.

In this article, we will discuss the subscription-based gaming in detail and see if they are worth signing up for.

How does the subscription-based gaming work?

The subscription-based model has been introduced in the gaming industry in the shape of single- and multi-game subscription services. In this revenue model, when the users subscribe, they pay a fixed monthly fee to access an extensive list of games. 

To retain the customers, the subscription app offers new and incentivizing features with no extra charges. The concept of bundling multiple games under a subscription model, and providing users unlimited access to the games benefit both the gamers and publishers. 

Game subscription services:

Due to the popularity of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and similar services, many companies are trying their luck at subscription-based gaming. We have plenty of subscription-based gaming services available as of now, and chances are that we will be bombarded with countless others in the future. Below, we present a summary of some of the popular subscription-based gaming options available for gamers.

EA Origin Access:

The EA Origin Access service was launched in 2016, which makes it the oldest subscription-based gaming service. Today, it has shaped into a multitiered service with the Origin Access Basic as the first tier. It is available for $5 per month or $30 per year, while the Premium package costs $15 per month or $100 per year. Basic gives you access to more than 200 games, including titles like Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront II. 

The Premier tier adds a few more games and also provides early access to the full version of upcoming titles. If you are into new EA games, then the Premium tier offers a better deal.

Nintendo Switch Online:

Nintendo Switch offers a cheaper game subscription service that costs $5.95 per month or $29.95 per year. NSO also offers a Family Membership package for $54.95 which supports up to eight accounts annually.

Gamers can play online multiplayer games and enjoy cloud saves for the first time on a Nintendo platform. Cloud saves allow you to backup game and save data online; however, a handful of games like ‘Pokémon Go’ block the use of cloud saves to combat unfair play. NSO provides a smartphone app and access to the growing library of Nintendo Entertainment System games. It includes titles like Tetris 99, Splatoon 2, and a variant of Metroid.

Unlimited Gamez Mo:

Unlimited Gamez Mo is a subscription-based gaming service that provides unlimited access to hundreds of games on their cellphones. The service’s library is home to hundreds of games listed in nine different categories and niches appropriate for any age and learning level. Unlimited Gamez Mo provides an ad-free experience for a minimal fee with no hidden charges. 

The best thing is that they are adding more titles regularly, which the gamers can download and play without paying an additional fee.

Google Stadia:

At Google’s annual Game Developer’s Conference this March, Google announced the highly anticipated cloud-based gaming platform Stadia. The service provides AAA games like Assassin Creed Odyssey to gamers on a device of their choice for a monthly fee of $9.99 per month. Stadia will act as a medium for game publishers to use their game-developing expertise and conduct their own subscriptions.

This means that gamers will not be paying Stadia directly. Instead, Google will earn through the publishers who use the Stadia platform to provide titles equipped with the latest gaming trends. Google already has plenty of publishers on board, contributing a handful of excellent titles to kickstart the project. In addition to the subscription, Google also mentioned that users would pay for some titles individually. These may include new releases or popular titles that have high chances of making the publishers a big buck.


The Ubisoft’s subscription was launched last year with a subscription fee of $15 a month. The service offers more than 100 PC titles that include not only old titles but also some of the latest games like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and Watch Dogs Legion, which costs the gamers $240 altogether. In a bid to reach a crowd beyond the PC market, Ubisoft has also decided to offer gaming services via Stadia platform. It is still unclear how this will affect their subscription fees.

Why is the subscription-based model getting popular?

As we are in the early days of subscription-based gaming, so, there is a lot of experimentation going on. Services like Stadia and xCloud are focusing on streaming, that is, acting as a cloud-based console to serve up games over the internet, while the likes of EA Origin Access and Xbox GamePass offer unlimited games downloads from specific developer library. 

Every subscription service has its positive and negative aspects, but let’s look at some of the pros of the subscription-based model and analyze the subscription experience in general.

Subscription pros:

  • The subscription-based model not only offers a steady revenue stream for developers but also saves bucks for gamers. So, it is a win-win situation where the players enjoy access to unlimited games for the amount they used to spend on individual titles.
  • Most of the consumers don’t want advertisements being shown in the middle of a game, yet they play an important role in the monetization strategy for a lot of companies. Revenues from ads comprise over 50 percent of total revenue for casual games, but it often comes at the cost of interrupting the gaming experience. The subscription-based model mostly provides an ad-free experience; hence, gamers can play their favorite games without constantly being interrupted.
  • Gamers often have an easier time with the subscription-based gaming as they often get discounts and incentives, in addition to the premium gameplay for a small fee.


Can the subscription-based services save you money?

This is the tricky part because it depends on a plethora of factors. Due to the many gameplay styles out there and human psychology, we cannot say with certainty that these services will be a money-saving option for all. So, we’ve come up with a few theoretical gaming profiles and analyzed the services for them accordingly.

  • The single game’s fan: If you are someone who only plays a few favorite games for a large number of hours, then you might be better off just buying the particular game outright than to have a subscription service. Moreover, if your favorite games are spread out over different gaming subscription services, it will make the subscriptions even more expensive.


  • The wide catalog fan: Gamers who want to play a wide variety of games for a minimum fee, the subscription service is a no-brainer. Each of the service we listed above gives you access to an extensive catalog at a far cheaper price. All the pros of subscription-based gaming outweigh the con of not owning the game.


  • The campaign finisher: Subscription-based gaming service can also save bucks for those who are interested in finishing campaigns and then move on to the next title. If you’re going to play a game only for 10-30 hours and then shift to another game, it is better to subscribe to a gaming service instead of purchasing the games individually.

Parting Thoughts:

Again, it is hard to say that subscription-based gaming is worth it because so much depends on the catalog and your gaming taste and style. Therefore, we have used different profiles above to look at the services from different angles. However, the subscription-based services are worth a look for gamers who like to play a lot but can’t pay full prices for each of their favorite titles.