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Subscriptions...

Over the last year I’ve carefully trained Instagram to only show me adverts for rucksacks, backpacks and bags. Now, I do kinda have a thing for a good bag – you can never have too many when you carry a laptop about – but I thought it would be amusing to test how quickly I could hone advert trackers in on the subject. Depressingly quickly, as it turns out, although it does give my GF and I a good chuckle. Anyway, because of this it was a surprise when Readly, a “Netflix for magazines”, for want of a better description, popped up.

I’ve written before about my love of magazines, and two years on, I still subscribe to a few, but even I’m hard pushed to see how it makes sense to continue when Readly has every single managazine I read available for 8 earth quid a month. Or rather, 4 earth quid, because you can have multiple profiles, so my girlfriend and I share one subscription.

From a purely consumer pov, Readly is fantastic. I currently spend way more than 8 pounds a month as a subscriber, so I’m in for some big savings when my subs run out… I’m consuming more content, for less money, and there’s the benefit of it being digital, so always in my pocket. Woo! But it’s absolutely the writing on the wall for what’s left of the magazine industry. Enjoy it while it lasts, etc…

Of course, digital distribution has always made these services inevitable. What’s surprising, to me, is how long it’s taken for the subscription model to land for computer games. I’ve had slides in my lectures since the start of the previous generation predicting it, but it’s basically taken until now for it to happen in a large-scale way.

So far this month I’ve had free games from Epic, Twitch & Humble. Far more content than I would realistically be able to play. Humble monthly has 10s of thousands of subscribers and gives away 3 or 4 AAA games a month, along with a bunch of Indies. After a year on that I have a backlog PC games so large that I don’t even know where to start. I’ve been sharing keys for stuff that I don’t like with friends, and I’ve still got more than I can play. It is, quite simply, a gamer’s wet-dream. I now live in a world where there are more games than I’m ever going to be able to play, and they’re all basically at my fingertips, for free.

The downside, for me at least, is that I have to really filter through things to find the content I want to play. Despite having more games than ever, I find I’m actually playing less. The paralysis of choice. Crazy, eh?

And we’re still not at the end-game.

What I do worry about, is the damage services like Readly do. Are they, like Netflix & Amazon, investing in original content? Or are they just siphoning the last few pennies out of the wrinkled husk of a dying industry? Does Spotify actually help the music industry? Or the podcast industry?

Will the myriad of game streaming services and subscriptions be re-investing back into small teams – or even solo developers like me – or will they be paying us pennies per-hour of play? Or a one time flat-fee, if we’re ‘lucky’?

Whatever happens, as a gamer I win. We all do. But as a developer it’s going to be rough, because nearly all the services I’ve heard about are offering pennies.

But then again, how many people that write books, make music, or create any sort of content actually do it full-time?

I don’t…