Larian Studios founder and CEO Swen Vincke has reacted to the news of Ubisoft telling fans they might want to get “comfortable” with the idea that people no longer own games but only license them. Posting on social media, Vincke said the rise of subscription services in games could have a negative impact overall. He didn’t mention any game subscription services by name, but some of the most popular ones these days include Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus, and Nvidia GeForce Now.
“Whatever the future of games looks like, content will always be king. But it’s going to be a lot harder to get good content if subscription becomes the dominant model and a select group gets to decide what goes to market and what not. Direct from developer to players is the way,” he said.
If the video game industry becomes dominated by subscription models, the people in charge will inevitably try to make the most money possible and this might come at a quality cost, Vincke said.
“Getting a board to OK a project fueled by idealism is almost impossible and idealism needs room to exist, even if it can lead to disaster. Subscription models will always end up being cost/benefit analysis exercises intended to maximize profit,” he said.
Vincke went on to say there is “nothing wrong with that,” but if even more platforms adopt and embrace a subscription model, “it’ll become savage.”
“In such a world by definition the preference of the subscription service will determine what games get made. Trust me–you really don’t want that,” he added.
Vincke said he respects his fellow game developers and supports their decision to put their games on a subscription service if it makes sense for them. But for Larian, Vincke said, “You won’t find our games on a subscription service.”
“I just want to make sure the other ecosystem doesn’t die because it’s valuable,” he said.
Larian’s newest release was Baldur’s Gate 3, which some expected to come to Xbox Game Pass. Vincke said previously that this won’t happen, because there is a “fair price” to pay for big game like Baldur’s Gate 3.
Vincke isn’t the only video game executive to speak out about subscription services in gaming. Before this, Take-Two’s Strauss Zelnick has said the math just doesn’t work when it comes to launching new games onto a subscription service.
Microsoft, which operates Game Pass, takes a different view. The company believes launching new releases like Halo Infinite and Starfield into Game Pass is an economically viable thing to do. In the case of Starfield, Microsoft said will absolutely make money off Starfield even if launching on Game Pass led to millions in lost sales. Microsoft has never shared any hard data or detailed specifics on the economic realities of Game Pass.