Up For Debate - Are gaming subscriptions like Uplay and Xbox Game Pass worth the money?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Sep 8, 2019 4:00 PM

When Uplay+ launched earlier this week, we actually ran a quick poll to see what everyone here on GD thought of it. The results were quite eye-opening. Uplay+, for the uninitiated, is a PC gaming service which grants subscribers access to a growing library of more than 100 Ubisoft titles. It’s basically every Ubisoft title available on PC, as well as all of its DLC. The $15 subscription also includes day one access to the ultimate editions of upcoming titles such as Ghost Recon Breakpoint and Watch Dogs Legion.

There’s usually a big backlash to subscription services in the comments on similar stories but, based on this fairly small sample of results, 71% of those polled will be giving the Uplay+ free trial a go, and 23% said they’d be willing to pay for a subscription, either a permanent one or an occasional sub for the big games.

That’s certainly a bigger percentage than we were expecting and perhaps a telling sign of things to come for the gaming market. Right now, gaming is still a relative outsider in the entertainment world in  terms of how our content is delivered to us. For TV, movies, books, music, and comics, there are plenty of widely-used services like Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Comixology and Audible which grant us access to a bewildering array of content.

Games are dragging behind though, presumably down to a number of factors such as the size of game downloads, unreliability of streaming options, preference for physical media, and the massive disparity between the prices games launch at and how much they cost in a sale two years down the line. A book that was $10 five years is usually still $10 today, while games hold their value as well as a sieve holds water. For all these reasons, and more, we’re still tiptoeing into content-on-demand gaming services.

We are getting there though. Uplay+ has now launched. Xbox Game Pass is earning all the headlines. Origin Access Premier can save us from making costly mistakes, and PlayStation Now is, er, we’re not sure actually.

But are you ready for subscription gaming to become the norm? Could it perhaps forever change how games are delivered to us? Will the value come from the length of time we engage with a title rather than the inherent quality, and would this mean developers will begin to tailor their games towards endless engagement and the daily grind rather than a two-hour gem? 

Before all of that, however, the publishers need to get us subscribing first. There’s a whole lot going on when it comes to subscription services, both in terms of how we think, how marketing can train us to think, and the ways in which we can be manipulated. It’s a big leap from offering us a new way of doing things and us actually doing it, although we foresee a gradual erosion in resistance just as we saw in the move from physical to digital.

The bottom line of any subscription service is the provider, in this case Ubisoft, believes they can get more money out of everyone paying a smaller amount, regularly, rather than a fewer users spending bigger chunks occasionally. The end goal, as always, is to make more money. We all know that, which obviously makes us wary, but a company making more money doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting a worse deal because of it. 

Netflix, as an example, is obviously very hit and miss in terms of quality, but so was/is cable TV. The difference being, Netflix arrived at £6 a month versus £30+ a month for satellite telly. It’s also more convenient  in terms of watching (mostly) what you want, when you want. The point being, subscription services tend to use cheap pricing and ease of use to weasel their way into our lives. Before we know it, it’s just another part of our essential monthly outgoings alongside all the other bills.

At $15 a month, Uplay+ is definitely on the expensive side in terms of subscription packages. It’s basically the same as Origin Access Premier, which is $15 per month or $100 for an entire year. Origin Access Premier does include a growing library of non-EA titles though, as well as the reduced rate for an annual subscription. What makes both of these services look bad is Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass for PC. There’s so many discounted deals that can be had for Game Pass it’s a bit ridiculous. Microsoft keep handing out $1 months and the like. Once Game Pass for PC settles tough, it’ll be $9.99 a month and already includes a list of games into the hundreds, including titles from dozens of different developers. Next to this, paying $15 flat per month to access Ubisoft’s three, maybe four AAA games release a year does seem a little steep.

Some of you have probably been doing some internal arithmetic while reading that last paragraph as well. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that with all these publishers offering competing services, we’re set to have a very fractured marketplace for subscription services. If you want to subscribe to Uplay+, Origin Access Premier, and Xbox Game Pass for PC, you’re looking at $40/month, $480 a year. That’s a GeForce RTX 2070 every year, on playing three publishers’ games.

But, the truth of the matter is it’s never as simple as this. We can look at it logically for as long as we want, but subscription services thrive on the illogical masquerading as the logical. Let’s take Ubisoft as an example. Over the coming year, Ubisoft will release Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Watch Dogs Legion, Gods & Monsters, The Settlers, and Skull & bones.. It’s unlikely many people actually want all of these games, but I’d imagine most of us would like to play to at least play a couple of these at launch. So let’s say March 6th, 2020 rolls around, and Watch Dogs Legion is about to release. We can either pay $60 for the basic version, $100 for the Ultimate Edition, or we could spend $15 to activate a Uplay+ version of Watch Dogs Legion and play the Ultimate Edition content. I think a lot of folks will choose the subscription option, and then Ubisoft has you right where they want to.

You see, Ubisoft’s plan is going to be a whole lot more thorough than EA’s shabby excuse for a subscription service. The French publisher has been sowing the seeds for years now, supporting practically all of its games for years after launch, even the ones that haven’t necessarily ever succeeded. Steep is in its 3rd year of DLC conent. Ghost Recon Wildlands has been supported right up to Breakpoint’s launch. For Honor is somehow getting season after season of content. And there are the obvious success stories like Rainbow Six Siege.

Ubisoft has planted expectations of fantastic post-launch support, and now it’s poised to make a crap ton of money from it. You can bet that every major game that comes to Uplay+ will have a ton of post-launch support. And you can also bet that Ubisoft will stagger the release of expansions, maps, and other goodies so there’s always something new every month for at least a couple of its games. This will keep subscribers hooked between the tentpole releases, hanging onto their subscriptions while they wait for that next bit of content which is right around the corner. It’s a deliciously capitalist way of doing things but it’s absolutely a game plan worth pursuing for Ubisoft.

Which all circles us back around to the games themselves, and how such a move will forever alter how they are delivered to us. Were services like Uplay+ to take off, it wouldn’t serve Ubisoft well to give us a complete gaming package in one go. They’d want to carve it up further, spreading the goodness month to month. We’ll keep playing and talking about their games for years rather than weeks or months, and every one of those months, another $15 will drip from our bank accounts to Ubisoft’s vault.

It’s certainly shaking up to be interesting times, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on subscription gaming services. Are you willing to pay for a Netflix-type service for games? If not, what could convince you? And do you think subscription gaming could fundamentally change what games we get and how we’re given them? Get voting and let us know your thoughts on the situation below!

Do you subscribe to any game services?

Which subscription service do you think is currently the best?

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09:22 Sep-11-2019

How would a hypothetical Steam service work? you have tons of publishers and indie game devs would it ever be possible on a service like theirs?

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22:41 Sep-11-2019

It would be a lot harder, since Valve would need to make deals with publishers or developers, find some middle point to compensate them and then do it. Though they wouldn't be able to cover everything, since I am pretty sure that publishers with their own subscription service wouldn't cooperate. I guess alternative would be for Valve to get first party developers and do it through that.

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22:43 Sep-11-2019

But I guess Valve could at least pull off something like Humble Monthly, where you get some amount of games every month when you subscribe. That shouldn't be too hard, considering Humble has it for a while. But in big scope, like Game Pass, that would be a lot harder without first party developers. It is almost like Valve would benefit from making games again... :-D

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07:44 Sep-12-2019

Valve making games again. how times have changed once a prominent pioneer of gaming to now an Emperor who doesn't really make games. Yeah but your right I think a humble bundle kind of a service might be possible or something like Netflix w

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07:47 Sep-12-2019

wherein a set of Games are available you can download and play whatever you want every month or so few games join in and few go out? if a game isnt doing really well and instead of a free weekend join the Library for say 6 months and boost

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07:50 Sep-12-2019

the player base maybe try to run a few monthly or weekly events and if you believe you have the ability to hold on to the gamer's move out and convert them into sales. but this would work mainly for Multiplayer centric games I doubt single

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07:52 Sep-12-2019

Player Games could try this model unless your attempting something The Hitman episodic series or The Tomb Raider series but intend to have a steady flow of content for months and months even after the service. Indie games would get massive

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07:55 Sep-12-2019

amount of success with such a subscription model as no one would then keep them in their wish list and wait for a steam sale instead simply download and play. Early Acess devs could benefit too but theyll be losing out on alot of money that

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07:58 Sep-12-2019

that could maybe directly come to them? but yeah it would give them a huge set of play testers and genuine reviews. but mostly I think we will see games that are older than 2-3 years show up in a service like this its already made 80% of it

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07:59 Sep-12-2019

its lifetime sales might as put it here and get a boots than wait for every Steam Sale

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19:25 Sep-09-2019

I'm trying Uplay+ atm and also subscribed to WoW. I think it's worth it, WoW, at least. Uplay+ seems like a loss to Ubisoft if you play for 3-4 months, up to 7-8 months it's kind of fair for everyone, after that I suppose it's a loss for you because by then you've probably played everything interesting there and you just end up grinding in Division or whatever. Thinking about it now I believe 7 months of WoW is long enough for a casual too, after that I lost interest.

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18:27 Sep-09-2019

I've been apart of Humble Monthly since day 1, haven't missed a monthly yet. Any games I have I just give to a friend to play, which is fine with me for 10 bucks a year (yearly sub cheaper). Plus I buy alot on the Humble store so the 10% off and 10% back is a nice addition to that sub.


Also have Game Pass Ultimate and love it. Especially since I got just under 3 years for $1 when they first gave it out and converted my xbox live sub to Ultimate.

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18:30 Sep-09-2019

Like others said. It's all about how often you play games and if the games you like are there. I also have EA Access on xbox because I buy FIFA, NHL, Madden, and Battlefield every year. $30 a year for 10% off and early access to games (plus vault games), just about covers the cost of buying those with the discount.

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18:35 Sep-09-2019

Game Pass Ultimate to me is the best so far. Xbox&PC Game Pass plus live? I think it's very much worth it especially at "trial" prices ($1 sub conversion, $2 for 2 months, stuff like that. Got about 12 games from PC Game Pass I've downloaded, going through all the Bard's Tales now. Even able to run dedicated servers from my PC(XB Anywhere) Ark to my Xbox Ark with some work arounds on logging into a different username. Lots of fun.

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17:36 Sep-09-2019

Ewww, gross.

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13:46 Sep-09-2019

Right now, I have Origin Acess Premier, Microsft Game pass and now the free trial for Ubisoft. Which will be carried on once it comes out of the free trial.


I look at how much i spend on games in the year, which far surpasses the cost of all 3 subscription services. Plenty of choice to pick from.

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11:04 Sep-09-2019

subscribed to both humblebundle monthly cause i like collecting games, and the Xbox pc game pass which has the highesg value of all the current pc subscriptions tbh, and the fact that you can get a full year with under 35$ with the current offers puts both EA access and Uplay+ to shame

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09:16 Sep-09-2019

Nope

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09:09 Sep-09-2019

games like the Metro & tomb raider series need a game pass Crysis and battlefield need to be purchased. Division well the content you play in the fist 10 hours is the same content you play at the hour 100 mark at hour 200 you get 1 hour mo

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09:16 Sep-09-2019

More of content 3x20 mins except each of these 20min missions are stretched for 2 hours with bullet sponge enemies so make what you want with that cause this makes subscription services work not Splinter cell or Future soldier hence GTA ver

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09:17 Sep-09-2019

versions of Ghost Recon arrive in the from of Wild-lands and Breakpoints.

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07:36 Sep-09-2019

If it isn't broken, don't fix it. That's my take on whether or not we should introduce subscription to gaming.

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06:55 Sep-09-2019

For the first 4 or 5 months it could be fine if you did not play those games already, but after that there will be nothing more to play. EX: the fallen order is a single player and with access you can play it for 14 €, but after that there is nothing more, so, unless you are in multiplayer games, the good way is pay a month play a game and unsubscribe. and maybe subscribe again for DA 4.

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22:22 Sep-08-2019

I think those are good value, as long as you play even one game per month, 15USD game pass is cheaper than 60USD game and even 100USD per year, if you do two games per year, it pays for itself. But, there are so many of those services, 15 here, 15 there, 15 on another and 10 on last one and here we go 55USD/month. I mean it is less than a game per month, but still, it piles up.

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22:24 Sep-08-2019

Though I am not opposed to subscribing to one or the other, play games, try games I wasn't sure about, then unsubscribe and do another one. Yes, you don't own those games permanently, but I have to admit, a lot of games I play I play only once, maybe twice. Sure there are amazing games I played multiple times, but for certain games, I still thing going through with game pass would be enough.

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21:55 Sep-08-2019

I'm bad about playing a game for a while setting it down to start something else, then coming back to it later. With the possibility that the game might not be on the service later, I don't like the idea.

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21:27 Sep-08-2019

Have tried some of this services, you don't get all of it even with time so i would recommend people to wait their specific games and buy them in a sale they are great like other people mentioned to try out the RIG on heavy titles.

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19:29 Sep-08-2019

One of a upside circumstance about these services are to testing out your new rig. Just pay for a month and try out AAA+ games. Other than that it's not gonna be healthy for your time management.

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18:47 Sep-08-2019

Dont play enough games to justify a subscription.

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17:30 Sep-08-2019

It depends. Sometimes I'm too busy to play anything for months, so I just usually wait for a sale...

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17:29 Sep-08-2019

i did humble monthly for a bit, but overall it just filled my steam library up with game i wasnt interested in. I've no interest in Uplay+ ive grown tired of their AC franchise and Far cry is heading in the same direction so what else do they have? Well just more games as a service....

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17:18 Sep-08-2019

I think its worth it if you want to try games you're interested in buying in the future. I know for sure I'm buying Forza Horizon 4.

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16:03 Sep-08-2019

Thing is: Ubisoft is limited to their own games, while on Xbox GamePass you can get also third parties titles. I think that every publisher going for their own subscription is nonesense, but giving a wider range of access is better.

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20:11 Sep-08-2019

It's the same issue TV show/film subs run into like Netflix etc. They only have a select few and if you wanna watch a specific one you have to pay for the entire thing but then HBO has Chernobyl or GOT that you wanna watch and you have to pay for that sub aswell...same issue really too much fragmentation of content.

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