The games industry's shift towards streaming platforms is already well underway.
According to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, the industry has one more physical cycle before games will be streamed in its entirety and will be better off because of it.
There have also been some innovations in the mobile scene with the concept of streaming.
Rovio's spin-off cloud games platform Hatch has been in open beta for over a year and is currently available in all of Europe. The service enables users to discover and instantly play games through streaming, with each title being free with no IAPs or gameplay limits.
Chinese live streaming platform Huya has also seen success with streaming and generated $348 million in total net revenue in 2017. For mobile specifically, Huya claimed 36.2 million average MAUs in 2017.
With all the industry buzz, we decided to reach out to our Indie Mavens to garner some insight into what they thought about streaming capabilities from a creative and business standpoint.
Specifically, we asked them:
As indie developers, what do you think of the streaming model from a creative and business standpoint?
Logically, it seems this will be the shape of things to come if we consider how the music and video industries have gone.
For games players, it does sound like it’ll be a good thing. At least in terms of being able to play whatever games there are.
For developers, especially indies, I’m not so sure. Music streaming doesn’t seem to have benefited musicians that much other than one or two at the top of the pyramid and while it’s great being able to play what music I want, when I want, it’s still just as hard to actually find the tracks I want in the vast oceans of content.
My worry is that it'll become even harder to make enough money on a decent game to cover its costs if you’re making micro cents per play and having to spend a fortune getting access to tell players about its existence.
This could force yet another round of everyone latching onto whichever game idea gets popular. As players who enjoy one title will happily download clones of it, rather than look for another type of experience they might not enjoy.
So ultimately both developers and players could suffer as the system runs out of new game ideas.
Then again, there could be a Netflix style scenario where the streaming platforms fund projects for exclusives and allow a bigger variety of games ideas to be developed.
That moves us back to the old days when you had to convince a publisher that your game idea was a great one, so it’s moved the creative “release this” button to yet another place. But at least this is one where developers actually get paid for their work.
It does sound a bit bleak, but if the streaming platforms are thinking long term, then they’re going to have to be funding small developers and indies to come up with new game ideas to stop the whole thing from imploding.
I'm personally very excited about innovations in streaming-based games design, from a creative standpoint.
A two-hour beautiful narrative can be as valuable to me as a 1000-hour MOBA can be to you, but only one is easily monetised via streaming.Tanya X. Short
Maybe it's because my background (as a gamer and dev) is from MMOs, but I feel like Twitch Plays Pokemon and Salty Bet are great examples of new, super-accessible multiplayer spaces.
Theoretically, this kind of gameplay was sort of always possible via the browser (all hail Transformice) but Twitch, Mixer, Caffeine, etc, all make it even more welcoming and possible for literally thousands of people to play together in a shared world, plus monetisation and player identity are made smooth and easy.
I have a few ideas in this space. Last summer Kitfox explored them via a few experiments (we called them Twitch Canvas, Twitch Storyteller, etc.), and I hope we can re-visit this someday!
However! I will not allow streaming services to turn any of my company's single-player gaming experiences into a cents-per-minute proposition.
It's blatantly devaluing short-form artistic experiences, which I treasure as a gamer and dev, and I am already nervous about losing in the current ecosystem.
A two-hour beautiful narrative can be as valuable to me as a 1000-hour MOBA can be to you, but only one is easily monetised via streaming. Don't sell them your babies for pennies, fellow artisans!
First of all, I don't think streaming will become the only way to play games in future. Traditional ways such as boxed games will still have a small part of the market.
I think it's a good thing as indies should be very worried about such evolution of the market.
Streaming marketplaces will be great for big companies with a lot of marketing budget as it will amplify the current trends where nearly only biggest games are featured.
As Aaron said earlier, did you ever try and find your favourite obscure indie rock band on big streaming stores? That's hard, isn't it?
The same will happen to video games. That's a bit pessimistic, but some other cultural industries are experiencing the same effects currently and consequences are sometimes quite bad.
On the other hand, from a pure development and creative aspect, I don't think it will change the way we're making games that much.
But, we can count on some studios to find some new and clever concepts using streaming as a part of the gameplay, so this could be very great news for players that will experience new ways to play.
There’s no doubting the mass potential of the ‘play on anything’ promise of streaming game services.
I feel network infrastructure's a way off before we see global support for this platform.Travis Ryan
We’re already seeing the player's appetite for this, whether it’s the configurable nature of Nintendo’s Switch, a 'Netflix of Games’ approach with Xbox Game Pass or cross-platform play (mostly) with Fortnite.
But, I feel network infrastructure's a way off before we see global support for this platform.
It will have a big impact on the type of games I personally like to play too, Twitch based games with a heavy reliance on frame data and precision.
That’s not to say that those games will disappear completely, just that the nature of their fundamentals will change as games are designed with latency in mind.
For example, classic fighting games such as Street Fighter may evolve into something more akin to Fantasy Strike, a game that streamlines player input to focus on decision making over technical precision and mastery.