An enormous shift in the current state of mobile gaming comes from the recent development of Google Play Pass. So far only available in the US, this is a subscription service which seeks to completely change the commonly accepted manner in which modern mobile games and apps operate.
This change hasn’t been developed in a vacuum, as Apple recently created a similar service with the release of their Apple Arcade on September 19. In essence, these both act in the same way and address the same issue.
This issue is the shape of modern smartphone gaming.
The Modern Form
Before we look into the potential of these new systems, we need to first examine the current state of affairs. At this point, mobile gaming has only really two different tacks.
The first and only system which will likely not be affected by these new changes is that of online casinos. Services like the Karamba casino app tend to be walled off from the rest of the app market, coming with their wide selection of games like slots, blackjack, and live casino games available through one app. Fans of these systems rest assured, they shouldn’t feel any of the heat coming to the second category.
The other category is that of regular monetized games. That is to say, games which offer microtransactions but don't offer the potential for players to win real money prizes. These systems quickly gained popularity as smartphones rose to ubiquity. Just as with console and PC games, developers saw these as a way for modern devices to generate enormous additional longterm profit.
Over time, many players have grown frustrated with the poor implementation these free-to-play systems often incorporate. Rather than offer a cohesive gaming experience, games which lean too heavily on microtransactions feel limited and sometimes even manipulative.
Dungeon Keeper mobile was one of the first of these titles to receive major backlash back in 2014. Effectively, the publisher EA had pushed for a sequel to a classic game, and then made it almost unplayable without putting down money on an ostensibly free to play system, according to many reviews.
This issue kept growing, where it reached the stage today where almost all of the most popular games from both Google Play and the App Store rely on some type of microtransaction implementation.
Going Forward by Looking Back
The new subscription services aim to take a different route by guaranteeing games which are completely free of ads and in-app purchases. The result of this is no more manipulative practices, no more getting frustrated by artificial limitations, and no more being sold a product you have already bought.
Google Play Pass initially launches with a price point of $1.99 for the first twelve months. After this, the pass price will increase to the standard of $4.99 per month.
Once they have obtained this Pass, rather than having to purchase each offering with the service, users will automatically gain access to the library of 350+ games and apps. If users already utilize programs which exist outside of the platform, the additional forms of monetization within these games will vanish, and be replaced by free alternatives.
While this service is analogous to other modern systems like the Xbox Game Pass and Origin Access, the most important aspect are the games themselves. Games on these consoles are, essentially, the same type which built the industry. These are exactly what you pay for, developed with the idea that a game should be an entirely self-contained experience.
While these passes have so far drawn considerable attention and applause, they will never take the place of the existing systems entirely. There are many games with millions of players which simply cannot be changed to work with these systems, meaning that the two approaches will have to coexist.
It's still early days, but it is entirely possible that the pass system could put immense pressure on what is a bloated microtransaction gaming economy. Going forward, these games will have to keep in mind that there is an alternative they have to compete with - and this alternative is one which offers much more bang for the player’s buck.
US users interested in Google Play Pass can follow this link to get started. Players in other regions, stay tuned. This pass should be coming to your region shortly.