PS5 and Xbox Series X: are we going to run out of games soon?

PS5 and Xbox Series X: are we going to run out of games soon?
The next generation of consoles was introduced with the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5. The release of the new hardware from Sony and Microsoft also marks a turning point for the gaming industry as a whole. This shows which strategies have failed over the last seven years and which have been intensified for the new generation, which features and restrictions have become standard and which have been rejected or even punished by the gaming community.

Table of contents

1 The current rights situation: Do I own the game that I bought? 2 The case of Amazon, digital stores and the illusion of property 3 Game Pass of the future: The premium digital playground 4 Games as no service 5 Your money is not enough 6 Why are you telling us all this? It is a good time to look back and, above all, to look ahead and make a prognosis now about which paths the industry will take in the future and which new standards it is trying to set.

The development, What strikes me the most is the trend towards service games, games subscription services and the ongoing dilution of the terms "buy" and "own".

The current legal situation: I own the game I bought?

While it used to be the case that video games were played on cartridges and available in stores, the market has increasingly shifted into the digital sector in recent decades. Even games that are delivered on physical media often need an Internet connection and are supplied with large day-one patches at launch. In addition, DLC, add-ons and other additional content are now installed conveniently at the push of a button or completely automatically with an update.

With this development, some legal questions also had to be clarified. One that has always preoccupied me is the question of whether buyers have a right to be able to use the exact product that they have bought. To understand where the game industry is headed, you first need an understanding of what rights buyers of digital content have and what rights developers reserve for themselves after the transaction is complete.

MMOs like World of Warcraft are constantly being expanded with updates and add-ons. With WoW Classic, Blizzard also offers an alternative to this. Source: buffed

To get an overview, I consulted the lawyers of the law firm Wilde Beuger Solmecke (in italics below), who were kind enough to give me information about how these matters are regulated in Germany. So I was informed that an update clause in the terms and conditions, according to which developers can change the paid game content, is effective according to the law, as long as the changes take place within a comprehensible framework. This is how the lawyers explain to us:

"Whether and how game developers may subsequently update the games they have purchased depends on the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) that apply to the purchase of games. However, these must withstand a legal check based on the German Civil Code . For example, the clauses in the terms and conditions must not be surprising, so unusual that you as a consumer need not expect them. "

Should such a surprising intervention occur, developers cannot protect themselves with a corresponding note in the terms and conditions, since such notes do not constitute a valid part of the sales contract. Then, as a customer, I can actually insist on being able to use the game in the version originally purchased.

De facto, this means that developers have the right to intervene in a product afterwards, but they cannot, for example suddenly delete essential features:

"If the aforementioned update clause is ineffective and an update is still carried out in the game through which originally acquired content is lost, I as a consumer can assert claims for damages. The distributor of the PC game has thus violated protective obligations to maintain the original object of performance. "

Since many platforms no longer offer games for sale at all, but only provide access according to the terms and conditions, these protective obligations could soon be a thing of the past.

The case of Amazon, Digital Stores and the illusion of ownership

A class action lawsuit is currently pending in the US against the streaming service Amazon Video. Amazon user Amanda Caudel dislikes the term "buy" in relation to Amazon's range of films and series. The term implies that users can purchase video content, but what is actually bought is, as noted in the terms and conditions, only a license to use. This could be withdrawn at any time, should Amazon itself lose the rights to the video or decide to discontinue the service for any other reason.

Movies and series are available "for sale" at Amazon Video. However, that could change. Source: Amazon

In the gaming sector, the same model of platforms such as the Epic Store, Origin, Uplay and Steam is used. Here, too, it is apparently suggested that you can purchase digital products, but in reality you also only get (possibly temporary) authorization to use them at full price. The verdict in the Amazon case could therefore also have lasting effects on the video game industry. So it could be decided that in the future companies will have to indicate more clearly that clicking on "Buy" does not actually make a purchase. Incidentally, the accusation could also stand under German law, since the clause according to which Amazon assumes no liability for the fact that purchased digital content may no longer be available could also be a surprising clause.

"The buy button ultimately suggests that after clicking it, you can have unlimited access to the film. The Prime customer therefore does not have to expect the film to suddenly disappear from the platform."

Either way, manufacturers' practice of selling user licenses instead of products will continue to exist. In contrast to Amazon, Epic and the like, other companies are already making no secret of the fact that their platform is a digital playground for which you have to pay admission.

Future Game Pass: The digital premium Playground

With the Ultimate Game Pass you can also access your games from mobile devices. Source: Microsoft With the Game Pass, Microsoft introduced a kind of Netflix for games. A constantly changing range of games that can be accessed for a monthly fee. For € 9.99 per month you can subscribe to either the PC or Xbox version of the Gamepass, for € 12.99 you get access to both versions as well as access to EA Play and an Xbox Gold subscription. In order to constantly expand the game list, especially with exclusive content, Microsoft concludes contracts with third-party developers or simply buys them up. Exclusivity is no longer just a means of selling consoles, Microsoft will also use it in the future to push its own subscription model - and thereby tap PC gamers without forcing other platform operators such as Apple or Steam to share in the profit.

At this point I have to say that I am basically not an enemy of such a model. I'm even sure that Game Pass could have some positive effects for gamers and developers. The chance is higher that a deal with Microsoft will give small studios more budget and freedom to develop exactly the game they want without having to pay attention to mainstream appeal. Even with Netflix there are exclusive films that would not have been made in the classic studio model, which aims at high marketability and cinema attendance. In addition, more players discover exactly these indie pearls for themselves. If the monthly fee has already been paid for the game, you are at least more inclined to give it a try. Not to mention that first-party games are finally no longer necessarily linked to a device, but soon all games may be played on all platforms. Since Sony boss Jim Ryan is already thinking out loud about considering a similar model for the Playstation 5 (buy now), this idea is actually within reach. In addition, competition usually also benefits the quality.

Nevertheless, I am also worried about the risks that this paradigm shift could have for the game industry as a whole, and especially for Playstation and Xbox.

Games as no Service

So, not only since the introduction of the Game Pass, there has been a trend towards letting players pay continuously for content rather than once. Be it fees for World of Warcraft, Season Passes for the latest Battle Royale or Tactical Shooter or the addition of thousands of small micro-transactions that should entice users to continue to spend money after the purchase. With so-called service games, you don't pay for the product, as it is at release, but also for ongoing updates and improvements that are designed to gradually expand and extend the game. Such content roadmaps are mostly nothing but empty promises.

The roadmap of Predator: Hunting Grounds Source: Illfonic / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Because whether and what content will be delivered is at the launch mostly not even known. If the game turns out to be a flop, developers can easily adjust or crush their plans afterwards. And even if the promised content does come at some point, it has not yet been said that the game is actually good, or that it still has a player base at all.

This is what happened with the EA / Bioware cucumber Anthem. Boldly announced as a powerful game-fun behemoth that will still have full servers and satisfied players years after its release, users were bored with the game after just a few weeks. The developers were so slow with the updates that the Christmas decorations were still hanging in Anthem even in February.

Despite this disaster, the video game industry did not move completely from the model, which is why the story is precisely with Marvel's Avengers repeated . So we can expect to hear the term "Games as a Service" a few more times in the future.

Your money is not enough

Gran Turismo Sport has only been around for a year Microtransactions added after release. Source: Sony Regardless of whether we pay for our single player games with a subscription model or with a season pass and microtransactions for our multiplayer games, I predict one thing above all for the future of the game industry: It will be expensive.

Although there are undeniably strong arguments for the purchase of one of the new consoles, including the guaranteed sufficient hardware for new top titles and the strength of various exclusive titles, the high purchase price that has to be paid for the games themselves has always bothered me about the parts. And that will increase significantly with the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Sony has pushed through a price of 80 euros for AAA video games for the future. And of course everyone else goes along with them, although the long-term monetization methods mentioned above are often hidden precisely in these titles.

In addition, the subsequent implementation of microtransactions or in-game advertising is already legally possible today. Should games at some point actually no longer be sold at all, but only exist as services, I don't even want to imagine what other surprises publishers will have in store for us after the launch.

Also the era of second-hand Games seem to have finally come: In contrast to the PC, where the digital market has long since replaced the DVD, consoles with their Blu-ray drives were a last bastion for physical media. But with the next generation, some of the devices will no longer even have a physical drive.

Should the disks soon be a thing of the past, Microsoft, Sony and Co. would never again have to worry about a supposed loss of profit due to used versions . The publisher then has sole control over any price reductions. If you want to pay less than 80 euros for the new Halo, you just have to grab the Game Pass and pay in monthly.

Why are you telling us all this?

In this article I don't just want to blame and whine, even if both of these are admittedly easy for me. Instead, it is important to me to give myself and you a little overview and to encourage you to be vigilant about the next generation of games. Not all of these strategies will work, players will still not put up with everything and in some cases the judiciary may step in and define boundaries, but it is becoming increasingly important as an individual to know about the trends, even as an individual, if not not to be left behind. Mainly because with the classic full-price title, which is ready at release and costs 50-60 euros, the concept of owning a game could eventually disappear.

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