GamesIndustry.biz recently spoke to Ubisoft, and something said during the interview seems to have created some sparks across the industry about game ownership.
What was said is not all that surprising really. Ubisoft, like multiple others, run subscription services with theirs being Ubisoft+ that just had a bit of a change into multiple tiers. These services are everywhere now like Xbox Game Pass, EA Play and others. That, and GI.biz spoke to Philippe Tremblay, director of subscriptions at Ubisoft so obviously they're going to be somewhat biased on what they think — it's their job.
From the interview, the bit in question:
One of the things we saw is that gamers are used to, a little bit like DVD, having and owning their games. That's the consumer shift that needs to happen. They got comfortable not owning their CD collection or DVD collection. That's a transformation that's been a bit slower to happen [in games]. As gamers grow comfortable in that aspect… you don't lose your progress. If you resume your game at another time, your progress file is still there. That's not been deleted. You don't lose what you've built in the game or your engagement with the game. So it's about feeling comfortable with not owning your game.
The GOG team certainly took notice, mentioning on X (formerly Twitter): "You should feel extremely comfortable with owning your games on GOG (they're DRM-free) :)".
It's worth noting that clearly it's going well for Ubisoft, as Tremblay mentioned October 2023 was their biggest month in Ubisoft+ history. So people are clearly buying into game subscriptions more and more. And related, Microsoft said back in 2022 that Xbox Game Pass had 25 million subscribers. Subscriptions are clearly here to stay.
Also worth noting, to be clear, Ubisoft don't plan to force you into one way or another noting:
"The point is not to force users to go down one route or another," he explains. "We offer purchase, we offer subscription, and it's the gamer's preference that is important here. We are seeing some people who buy choosing to subscribe now, but it all works."
Given how services can just entirely remove your paid-for content, this whole issue of ownership is a concerning one. Like how Sony were going to just remove previously purchased Discovery content from users, although they've since backtracked on that after public outcry.
The thing is, you have to remember, you don't actually own your games on Steam either. This has been well-known for a long time now. As per Steam's Subscriber Agreement under the "A. General Content and Services License" section:
[…] The Content and Services are licensed, not sold. Your license confers no title or ownership in the Content and Services. To make use of the Content and Services, you must have a Steam Account and you may be required to be running the Steam client and maintaining a connection to the Internet.
I'll admit, it's not entirely the same. Valve won't take away your games if you don't pay them every month, it's not a subscription in the same way, and plenty of games on Steam are actually entirely DRM-free and can be run outside of Steam. But still, it's something to remember, ownership has been on the decline for a long time.
A lot of it simply comes down to convenience though right? Plenty of us pay for Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime and so on and so on — so we can just quickly jump into a show or a movie they have available. But then the problem there is, again, everyone wants their own service. There's more popping up all the time, and rights on various shows end up split between them and you end up paying more and more (look at the mess of Pokémon streaming) and never owning a damn thing.
Over to you in the comments: what are your thoughts?