Ubisoft co-founder Yves Guillemot recently said in an interview, “I think we will see another [console] generation, but there is a good chance that step-by-step we will see less and less hardware.”
More recently at E3, EA introduced Origin Access Premier, a Netflix-for-games streaming service which gives players access to more than a handful of games for a flat, monthly rate. Even Xbox has already started to play with Game Pass and by the end of the decade, I’m sure more publishers will announce their own services, as well.
What Netflix did to movie theatres and DVD players and what Spotify did to CD players and radio, streaming game services will inevitably do to the PlayStation and Xbox consoles (at this point Nintendo plays by its own rules so let’s move them aside for now).
There’s a very possible future where a smart TV and a game controller will be all anyone needs to load up Square Enix’s probably-coming streaming service and dive straight into Octopath Traveler. But what does this mean for indie games?
In order for this to be successful publishers will need to beef up their library in order to compete with each other and they may find (as Netflix has found with their premium content) AAA games to be too complex to pump out quickly enough.
Indie games could be the solution. Steam already offers an experience in which indie games populate most of their storefront, peppered in with extremely popular AAA titles. It would be easy to see EA mirror this infrastructure and bulk up their EA Originals line to try to curate a better offer for their Origin Access Premier service. This creates tremendous potential in the growth of the indie market.
However, in this console-less transition, indie games might begin to suffer an image problem too. It’s not unreasonable to think indie games will be held to a higher, possibly unfair standard. By removing price tags and putting all games on a level playing field, games like Tunic will be given the same scrutiny from players as Halo Infinite.
When players are paying the same base price for an indie game as they are for an AAA game, will they be okay with the obvious size and graphical disparity? Will gamers be upset if indie games make up the bulk of any prospective streaming? Gamers who already play a wide breadth of games may instantly think this won’t be a problem, but for the gamer who only plays Call of Duty annually, will they be upset that they’re paying for a service that keeps offering them indie games?
On the flip side, this could be an opportunity for that Call of Duty player to try their hand at smaller stories. There’s no extra work required to boot up Celeste when none of your friends are online and play a few levels in-between shooting matches.
Indie games could see a boom in their audience as they are paired next to games that they would otherwise not be associated. There can be tremendous potential to appeal to audience that wouldn’t otherwise choose to buy the game, but plays it now because they’re handed the experience for free.
The outlook may be bleak for consoles, but the future is uncertain for indie games. There could be tremendous potential to take advantage of future streaming services as long as they hold fast to their quality and create fun experiences.