A genuine question that we as gamers will need to ask ourselves when considering these new iterations is, do we trust these companies? This may come across like the paranoid ramblings of a crazy old man in the future, but with EA’s extreme monetisation protocols and Google’s reputation for dropping support for products they don’t deem as successful, do we trust them with our money?
The reason we need to ask these questions is that cloud ownership is ownership with a BIG asterisk. If we buy a game where, not only do we have no physical copy, but we also have no downloaded version to play offline, we need to put all of our trust into the continued support of that game. If Stadia or Project Atlas drop online support for a game, or even collapse entirely, it’s not just the case of having to source a replacement console, or accepting that our game will no longer be updated or playable online; we lose all ability to play that game again- despite having paid for it and “owning” it.
The easiest way around this for Google or EA would be either to offer at least X amount of years’ support, with a guaranteed refund should the offer not be honoured, or to allow customers to exchange ownership of a no longer supported game for a new one.
Both organisations will need to work out the best way to reassure customers that their money will be well spent and that their purchases will be secure.
It may make sense for Stadia or Project Atlas to adopt a monthly subscription model, rather than attempting to sell outright ownership of games on their platforms. The introduction of Xbox Games Pass and PlayStation Now have proven that this service is popular with audiences and it would likely help these new platforms come across as more trustworthy. EA already have something similar set up with their very reasonably priced EA Access, so it’s evidently an idea that’s been toyed with. It’s almost a certainty that the first platform to properly land the Netflix-for-video-games service that we’re clearly headed toward will rake in billions.