Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick is on board with Sony’s approach to its revamped PS Plus, reiterating that he believes subscriptions are better off focusing on catalogues rather than day one releases, because “we can't afford to turn our business upside down in a way that doesn't make sense economically”. He added that his company has supported various subscriptions in the past with legacy content, and he’s happy to do so where it makes sense.
“Our scepticism has been around making frontline console products available day and date with subscription,” he told Games Industry. “That doesn't make any sense to us, because economically speaking, we don't think consumers are prepared to pay for that. And we can't afford to turn our business upside down in a way that doesn't make sense economically. There always has to be an intersection between what the consumer wants and what the publisher is able to do. And you know, it doesn't make sense to do that for our properties. That's our opinion, and I think Sony agrees with us, because it said so.”
As alluded to above, Zelnick believes subscriptions can still be great for catalogue content: “It can potentially be great for catalogue properties, sales of properties that have been in the market for a while and their price has been reduced. It can make economic sense to offer those on a subscription basis.”
He continued that he doesn’t believe that subscription services will appeal beyond a very specific subset of enthusiast gamers: “People in [the United States], households, consume 150 hours of linear programming [television or movies] a month. That's over 100 properties. [You can] fill that need with two or three subscription services. That's a very good deal compared to buying a la carte or even compared to prior cable packages.
“But interactive entertainment is consumed at a different level, about 45 hours a month and in a different way. It's perhaps two or three or four properties in a month. It's certainly not over 100 properties. So it's not clear that your broad based audience wants access to many hundreds of games in a month and is willing to pay for them. It is possible that a small subset of the audience wants that, but I don't think it's a broad base, because it's not how people tend to consume interactive entertainment.”
Zelnick did caution that he “could be completely wrong, which is totally fine” – but as the executive of a major publisher, his opinion is at least worth listening to. Of course, his outlook will be influenced by the fact that his company produces juggernaut titles, like Grand Theft Auto and NBA 2K22 – games which sell millions upon millions of copies, full-price, at launch.
Still, he concluded: “This company does not operate based on one person's opinions, including mine. And when it makes sense, we support subscription services and if that's where the consumer wants to be, that's where we'll be.”
Hmm. That's an interesting way to look at it, and can definitely see where he is coming from with this way of thinking. But yeah. Time will tell.
I like hearing from the publisher as we don't see the financial side of the publishers. As for us, I wrote in a forum article I think the current subscription choices are for gamers like me who only get to maybe half a dozen big games a year. The value for those that play all the time will need the day one titles on subscription to get the value
Its a very frank and honest appraisal of the market and what makes good buisness sense.
I agree with his feelings 100%. It just makes good sense to me.
Was that Phil opening his chequebook?
Time will tell. But I do think some things certainly make sense right now e.g.
Subscription services are great for catalogue content.
Also it's great for smaller games that wouldn't usually get that level of players or media attention. You can get your art/game enjoyed by more people immediately. And by increasing your base playerbase you get more mindshare which will lead to more players elsewhere too.
Game streaming actually makes more sense for older titles right now. With the current technological limitations around 1080p/60 this is a better fit for older games at very little loss of clarity as opposed to reducing a 4K with video compression where you lose all the detail.
Regardless for the consumer Game Pass with it's well curated list of third party titles, many day 1, and first party content, all day 1, it's difficult to beat right now!
If you are a multi-trillion-dollar company, you have the capital to make giving away games for pennies on the dollar work, though. That's how Microsoft does it (and why it's so dangerous to the industry). One day, they may turn a profit from Game Pass, but the money Microsoft has spent acquiring Bethesda and Activision-Blizzard is more than Xbox has ever made in total, so clearly, they are not sustaining Xbox with the money it generates itself like PlayStation and Nintendo do. It's all part of Microsoft's usual strategy of spending their way to the top.
GamePass is sustainable as long as Microsoft funds it, cause it’s definitely not making any profit.
The PSPlus programme seems far more sustainable for long term as a rotating catalogue approach.
Begun, the subscription wars have.
I wonder how many more third party developers are in agreement with Take Two.
GamePass wouldn't work for many other companies than Microsoft, because it is not profitable at current pricing (as Microsoft themselves admit). So the industry can do some parts, but not fully emulate what they are doing and remain profitable, simple as that.
@themightyant By the time games are fixed and properly ready in terms of devtime and debugging, day one is the worst quality the game will be in...I always buy games I really want day one, but I do not play them at that state(couple of exceptions). By the time these games are fixed and ready they probably will not be on gamepass.
@IAM1982 it doesn't matter. People pay for new content they are looking forward to all the time. Sony will never have any need to put their big guns up for near nothing day 1.
Hell has frozen over. I agree with Strauss Zelnick.
take 2 live services only..... offline gamers see ya later chuckles
I’m quite taken aback by his statement that folks in the United States are spending 20% of their time watching T.V.!
He makes some great points. I tried Game Pass a while ago and when you first try it is pretty exciting seeing all these games available right off the bat. But after that initial exciting "Look at all the possibilities!" moment, I started to realize I had only played 1 maybe 2 games a month. And when I went to tried and find something else to play, no offense to the games that were available in the service but the next game I wanted to play wasn't available on the service. I then canceled it because I didn't feel like I was really using it anyway.
I found that I prefer to just simply pay for whatever I want to play instead of hoping it shows up on a subscription service. I get why Game Pass or PS+ Extra is appealing to some folks but I'm just not one of them.
You know where Gamepass has benefitted me that no one really talks about? I’m the sort to shell out for games but my friends aren’t, or try new experiences where they stick to the big AAA titles. So we missed so many multiplayer experiences in the past. With Gamepass, all of us have access to the same multiplayer games and I can finally convince them to check out games they wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s been a game changer for me in that respect.
Thats also where the “day ones” become really awesome.
What I’ve never understood is gamers eagerness to deny themselves the very best value available to them today. So concerned with if it’s ‘sustainable’ when today is the best time there’s ever been to be a gamer if you take advantage of it.
What do I, as a gamer, honestly care if ‘daddy Phil opens his wallet’?? When I benefit from that?
Whether something is sustainable or not should be of no concern to the gamer. Gamepass or any subscription ‘failing’ is not going to kill the fastest growing biggest media format - gaming isn’t going anywhere. Gaming is going to keep growing regardless of subscription services getting content day 1.
Whether publishers put their games on subs is, and has always been, their choice. Nobody is forcing them. They’ll go with what makes sense.
He’s correct in that the majority of gamers don’t consume games like movies/tv. The majority being casual. They’ll purchase 1 or 2 games a year…so maybe yearly subscription makes less sense for them. But then if they’re playing those 1 or 2 titles once a week throughout a year…and get exclusive perks and content packs via their subscription service maybe it will make sense - look at what gamepass is about to do with league of legends where you save £100s. Or f2p games like Fortnite where you get content via gamepass. Or say if gamepass starts putting cod/fifa packs out etc. I think thats when yearly subs start making sense for casual gamers…especially when the alternative is £70 for base game then also the mp paywall on top per year. Every new cod will be on gamepass day 1.
Obviously both Sony and MS are investing in so many studios because they know it’s their own first party that will push subscriptions…exclusives are more important than ever. It’s why we’ve seen every subscription service outside of gaming invest heavily in exclusivity.
And right now numbers are growing in subscribers. If there was no money to be made they wouldn’t keep investing in subscription services. And that money comes to billions over the space of a year…most invested back into gaming.
I also never got the whole ‘subscriptions are bad for gaming’… when we all acknowledge that majority of gamers are casual that buy 1 or 2 games a year. When subs will open up those gamers to trying more games they’d never have bought anyway.
Surely games with £70 price tags has a more detrimental effect on gaming? I know it’s put me off from buying as many Sony games day 1 this gen so far. I’m waiting for sales or buying preowned.
Regardless of if third party continue to make day 1 deals or not. I don’t get why any gamer today would complain about games hitting their subscription day 1. We’re still in the honeymoon…Xbox guys enjoy it. Sony guys spend this time worrying about it. When ultimately if subs don’t take off it changes nothing. If they do take off it offers you more value. Quality of games doesn’t become less important as the aim is to KEEP subs. And you still have that choice to vote with your wallet.
The way GTA5 hasn't left the charts, I can see why he'd say that!
"Grand Theft Auto V has sold 165 million copies since its release"
I think I have a theory as to why they believe that.
From the company that's released GTAV 100 times?
Oh noes. Subscriptions..
Although I totally agree with that, especially when it comes to first party or other big budget games, I still have a little hope that a few new releases, e.g. select promising indies (like a few we've seen at the Xbox showcase) will be included in PS Plus. Sony including Stray in PS Plus is a good first sign for me here.
Agreed and few can sustain the kind of losses Microsoft can.
I think EA have got it spot on you can buy it then after about 1 year it goes onto EAplay. so they get first year sales and if you dont mind waiting you know pretty much when its going to arrive on subscription
It is the right approach. When you have ex Xbox execs even talking about the dangers Microsoft is pushing the industry towards you know it's not sustainable or realistic. Microsoft just wants to Spotify the industry so everything goes through them and they'll tank as much losses now if it means they control everything in the future.
The music industry is dead because of Spotify/streaming, the only way artists make money is live shows and side businesses. The gaming industry can't do any of that so their only response would be to fold or change how games are made which is why you're seeing such a live service push. To the people that say "I don't care about if its sustainable as long as it saves me money" well in the end you will care if the industry goes majority subscription and certain games stop being made because they can't justify the cost.
Gamepass does cannibalise game sales and they thing i hated with PSnow was it would take 2 to 3 years for the exclusives to turn up on the service and then they leave after 90 days that sucked
Like i said earlier EA have got it right i goes on EAplay after a year and stays on there
All these people pressuring Sony to do day-and-date first party releases ("because they're a billion dollar company") clearly aren't properly evaluating the quality of Sony's products. Sony's competition is currently offering first party games day one for dirt cheap on gamepass, yet PS5 is still outselling xbox. There's a reason people are picking $70 games over "the best value in gaming". The market speaks for itself. Sony not recognizing their value would be tremendously stupid.
Can I just please enjoy my oldschool cheap PS plus, get the games I want on day 1, otherwise get them on sale?
I don't want my PS to become another Netflix.
Already have 3 streaming subscriptions and I'm not gonna pay double for my Plus tyvm. Tired of these subscriptions
I agree (from MY point of view). I buy games I really want physical so “day one” has no attraction for me, games I’m half interested in, I can wait until they become available on ps plus or whatever a year or two down the line.
I'm sorry but that guy's opinion on anything money holds 0 value in my eyes. Greedy af
"Close business partner of Sony agrees with Sony's business decisions"
Not much of a story here, really. Of course they do. They release like 2 games a decade, if that, they're going to have different business priorities regarding that than some other companies, and I appreciate that he admits he may be wrong as well.
I don't disagree with him that it's not a broad market, but this is the guy running a gambling racket with GTA:O where whales spend thousands on one game talking about consumers are broadly willing to spend. His comparison of 150 hours of linear programming to 45 hours interactive is bizarre. It assumes the average of people watching TV is the same people interacting, and that they just watch far more TV than play games rather than the more likely possibility that people that play games spend most of that 150 hours playing games instead of watching TV, but more people watch TV than play games, skewing the averages. But, then, again, considering the content his company makes, the audience is a very different, largely social/casual audience vs the kind of player that's likely to engage in subscriptions, etc.
On the Game Pass side, he's the lone, most infamous example I can think of that uses Game Pass like a "free play weekend" in a way that breaks the spirit of subscriptions and risks breaking them entirely, often putting GTA5 or RDR2 on the service for a few weeks tops, while most other publishers put games for months or years.
He'll do it on Plus Extra, too, just watch.... He'll use it as an extended demo, not a game actually in the catalogue. It's what he does.
And, let's be honest, if GTA6 is going to be like GTA5, it really should be an F2P game. The money doesn't come from sales, it comes from the endless monetization of the Online mode. They could through it in GP, Plus Extra, and PC/Mobile F2P and make double what they made on 5. 2k really represents its own industry at this point.
But when you're 2k, release few games, and most of them are big hype games that garner large day 1 sales, at high prices, at the expense of those consumers spending money on competing products because of both the high cost and consuming nature of the games....you're not going to want to mess with that. Arguably day 1 sub is a worse proposition for 2k than Sony, where Sony games are kind of disposable (so far, until the GaaS plan turns it all into GTA:O) and would keep you bound into the service more, 2K's endless online money pits are designed for you to never play other company's games.
Said the boss from take-two while gta v/online has been "remastered" for the billionth time, on its hundredth console generation, and has started to offer servers for a monetary fee.
Yeah, not gonna listen to this guy when it comes to what is best for the consumers.
Says a boss overseeing some of the most egregious profiteering and lack of new creative content in the industry.
Yah, solid take.
@IAM1982 shadow warrior 3 was day 1 on ps now
The problem with subscription services is that they don't have all the games on there that you want to play, so then you have to pay monthly for the subscription service as well as paying for the games you want that aren't on it such as elden ring and any other big AAA game, then there's the fact that you have hundreds of games to browse through to see what to play which can be overwhelming for those that have a lot they want to play on top of games they buy as well, then there's more pressure to give up on some games half way through because new games have come into the service that you like the look of or you've found out another game you want to play is leaving the service soon.
I'd wager all these people who use gamepass hardly actually finish many games on that service.
I mean I've been a gamepass user for a year and half and so far have only fully completed the gunk, the medium and man of Medan, yet in that same time frame I've completed over 30 playstation/switch games. Luckily I got my first year of gamepass for free with my phone contact.
That also brings up another point, for those that game on playstation or switch as well then gamepass becomes even less worth it as your spending time on other consoles as well, if you're planning on playing 2-3 xbox games a year then gamepass isn't for you price wise.
Cool to see an exec actually rationalize why it wouldn't work and break it down the way that he did.
I'm always pro-consumer, but people (this site) need to [accept] the fact that Microsoft has the money to take losses in order to gain subscriptions & engagements, by any means necessary. Sony just does not have the ability, so stop expecting them to try to compete with Game Pass...
@Bleachedsmiles We get it you're an Xbox advocate
I don't want to play games that I don't really own on a subscription service and at the same time I refuse to pay $70+ for any game. I will continue to buy them in heavy sales till there's a middle ground found.
Yeah, Take-Two are all about profits whilst Microsoft are a charitable organisation.
Don't focus on the messenger but the message itself. This dude's correct.
@Bleachedsmiles Completely disagree. As gamers, we should worry about these things because they have long-lasting implications for the future of the industry and the artistic medium.
@NeoTokyo404 what are these long lasting implications you worry about?
@Korgon i cant upvote you enough. This is exactly how i feel
@pharos_haven I’m a value advocate… that’s crazy isn’t it? Sometimes I even wait to buy games when they’re on sale! For the longest time I did the unthinkable and even traded games in and got preowned games…the devs/publishers didn’t see a penny!!! But this was a common practice! I’m pretty evil.
@PoopScoop Do you know how much of the Beatles back catalog the Beatles own? Do you know how much of a cut labels used to take from artist? How much money an artist would make from their records? Do you know that bands always made the most immediate money from touring? Have you heard of bootleggers? Do you know that it was common place to record songs from a radio…that’s crazy right? Do you know music used to come on cassette tapes? Do you know that you can still buy physical albums today?
The music industry isn’t dead. It’s just more commonly delivered differently…and as a result of that you’ve seen music stores shut down and figured there’s no money in music, right? But popular artists are making more money today than popular artists did in the 60s/70s/80s/90’s. Platforms like Spotify have allowed lesser known artists a far larger reach than they ever did being restricted to regional radio stations.
Artists now have more control over the rights to their music. There’s less need for major labels.
Their music is now available on far more formats…you can now have your music played on phones, carried around with you where ever you go - that’s not killing an industry. That’s making one more accessible…which in turn results in more people listening to more different types of music…which in turn leads to more ticket/album sales…which in turn leads to more money for the artist.
Since the birth of Spotify there’s not less music being made. There’s just less music retail stores.
"he doesn’t believe that subscription services will appeal beyond a very specific subset of enthusiast gamers"
That's the key here. It's not clear yet, but that specific point will determine the success (or the lack thereof) of gaming subscription services.
The model is sustainable and even profitable, provided the subscribers base is above a certain threshold. In Shaun Layden's estimate, this number is around a staggering 500 million. Even if this number is bonkers (remember, it's Shaun Layden), the current 25 million base that Microsoft boasts is far beyond the break even.
That's why they're dumping truckloads of money in deals like Activision's. But it won't be enough. Game Pass will have to appeal to a much larger audience and streaming is a big part of that equation.
But I must say I'm in agreement with Zelnick. I don't think that that magic number will ever be reached. I just hope the industry isn't completely screwed by the time MS comes to that conclusion and finally backtracks (or simply pulls the plug).
@UltimateOtaku91 Well you’d wager wrong, at least for me, but you’re constantly moaning about this and that with Xbox while making these big claims about the Xbox player base that reeks of Sony fanboyism.
@Sakisa Fanboyism on a Playstation site! Who woulda thunk it? I saw a ***** load of your Xbox fanboy ass posts get deleted in previous articles so why even call out other people for the same ***** you do?
@PoopScoop Yeah!! Give him a poop punch in da face. Take his kids away from him too.
@PoopScoop I say I don’t like a lot of Sony’s cinematic games and I said the reaction to the Persona on Xbox news Sunday was pathetic. I stand by it. But I also don’t make assumptions about an entire player base, or about the circumstances that could lead someone to prefer one plastic box over another. Everyone has their own reasons but he constantly tries to logic his way to conclusions that fit his perception of things and how that must be how it is.
"There always has to be an intersection between what the consumer wants and what the publisher is able to do." The GTA trilogy is proof that's a lie
@Sakisa Is it pretty funny that a lot of the gamers most vocal about gamepass killing the gaming industry, and how they hate subscriptions because they’re cheating developers out of sales etc… are also the ones complaining when their exclusives go to PC and sign petitions to get kojima games cancelled on Xbox etc…
Game pass has been great for me. I love jumping around and playing new and old games. I pay for game pass with rewards. I also still buy games. I love gaming and have enjoyed all types of games. It lets players play your game. I don’t know why I should care about the “business” and even the economics of it.
I'm not interested in subscription models. I don't even subscribe to many at all. So I think he has a point. It just seems like with how game releases are, you can't depend on several large, quality AAA first party releases every year. That is what would save you money.
Some years are lean on releases. If I had a year or two of Gamepass stacked right now, I'd honestly be angry. I guess if you want to to play a lot of indies and such, it still works out. Why people think everyone wants to play all these random games, idk.
Well Mr Zelnick, there’s a lot of people out there who can’t/won’t buy new games day one due to the cost of living with energy, fuel and food prices all sky rocketing. Gaming is a luxury that we can live without, the same can’t be said about the others though.
Putting games day and date on a subscription service may not make sense economically to some but then why are there many games, not just indies but big budget games too, releasing day and date on Game Pass? In times like this Game Pass and PS Plus is even more appealing as opposed to shelling out full price for a game.
@IAM1982 they haven't knocked out a big one in forever. Sony's fears (of day 1 affecting quality) rings true for what Microsoft are going through right now. It's all good and well slapping 'day one on gamepass' at the beginning of a trailer but the service definitely isn't worth the £ right now. Not until next year at the earliest.
So you telling me that a guy who is selling 150+ million copies of GTA V is not in favour of day one subscription releases?
Right know there is literally no proof that your games going day one into the subscription service has damaging effect on quality of said games.
@PoopScoop People should stop comparing games industry sub services to Spotify and Netflix.
Yeah. Spotify is *****. But you know why? Because every quarter they collect all revenue from subscription, they take their cut (30%) and then spread rest of money to artists based on number of plays for that quarter. Which inherently creates "rich will get richer" sense.
Microsoft is paying for Game Pass deals in advance and then in some cases is paying additional money for hours spent in game. Which is entirely different business model. So it is stupid to compare those.
Also. Subs are for Spotify (and Netflix) only source of revenue. You can't buy stuff outside of Spotify's subscription. You can be subscriber of Game Pass and still continue to buy games. You can still spend your money on additional content or microtransactions and many people are buying games that are leaving Game Pass. So your business model is way more diversified and not reliant only on subscription. So again. Comparisons are naive at best, and stupid at worst.
Let's face it. Sony is not willing to put their games into their subscription service day one because they don't need to (many of their games are selling great) but more importantly because they are currently in "we need to maximise profit" mode. Which is fine I guess but I'm not willing to pretend that PS Plus Extra is a great service just because Ryan gave public convenient excuse to have more ***** service than his competition.
Sony just is not willing to invest to grow their sub service. They want to grow for as cheapest as possible. Microsoft is willing to invest huge money to create best sub service.
After seeing starfield he maybe right
Playstation fans once again cheering a big company wanting to give consumers less, just because it's Sony. The new console wars are pathetic. You guys can talk all day but the numbers are there for gamepass and no, Microsoft have never said it's not profitable. Let's just keep pretending Sony's service is anything but a bad copy of what you claim to hate.
@doctorhino They're the biggest shills in gaming.
Big Jim could put PS5 games up for $100 a pop and they'd say thanks daddy give me more.
@Godot25 There will be less money going towards the creator/publisher of the game. Show me some stats(with links) from publishers showing how this is not the case.
@KayOL77 Sony are still making the lion's share of their money from selling games out the bat(as opposed to just on subscription). People are voting with their wallets. Times change, but not that much.
@HeeHo yes lmao cuz I'd rather own my games and also support great quality games and studios over ***** ones at Xbox. Halo is ***** Compared to what it used to be. Forza is just racing its niche. Gears I actually enjoyed. And the others? Should've been ps exclusives maybe they would've actually been supported like sunset overdrive and quantum break and recore. Gamepass isn't God tier like all my friends told me it was I now only use it for old games like dragon age lmao. My Xbox gets dust now. But go ahead and keep gamepass. 10 years from now when it costs more and the quality of the games diminish don't come crying to Sony
@SerJosh97 Guess I hit a nerve🤣
Weirdo fanboys like you is why I’m embarrassed to be a Sony fan.
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