Ben’s Opinions: Do Pricing Models Really Matter?

Welcome to the first post in Ben’s Opinions, where I will be discussing my thoughts on a variety of cloud-related topics in a constructive and peaceful way. Articles within this are written purely to share my opinion on things and spark interesting conversation, not to be negative towards any platform or person.

I wanted to start with a particular issue I see crop up a lot; pricing models. I have no doubt that if you are reading this, you are very likely a user of one or more cloud gaming platforms, be that Stadia, Luna, GeForce Now or all of the above and more. If this is the case, I am sure that you have seen some people’s… “interesting” opinions on these platforms, Stadia in particular. Whilst this image is improving rather quickly with successful releases such as Cyberpunk 2077, there is still a lot of misinformation that is spread.

A point against cloud gaming that I have seen on a regular basis is the discussion of pricing models (“I don’t want to use *insert platform here* because I think it’s an awful pricing model.”). Whilst it is a more constructive argument than just saying 4 people use the service, does the pricing model really matter?

Well, yes and no. Obviously everything has a cost associated with it, and a full AAA game is, for most people, not something they can shell out for on a regular basis. Gaming as we all know is sometimes not the cheapest of hobbies, whatever platform you play on. But the argument that Stadia in particular has a “bad pricing model” is rather pointless, if you begin to consider the pricing models of other gaming platforms.

Before I start this next part, it is worth noting that I am not against PC/console gaming in any way, quite the opposite. I was born and raised on cartridges and discs; I own a console and a PC myself that I thoroughly enjoy on a regular basis. I believe that people should be able to play on whatever platform makes them happy, whether I play it or not, which in this day and age, seems to be a revolutionary way of thinking.

So, let’s look at the argument of pricing models more in depth. As I mentioned it earlier, I will take Cyberpunk 2077 as my example. Say I was hypothetically looking to buy it, what’s the cheapest way for me to do so? Well, let’s look at the numbers:

  • PlayStation 4: Starting at around £200 for the console + £50 for the game.
  • Xbox One: Starting around £200 for the console + £50 for the game.
  • PlayStation 5: Starting at £359 for the console + £50 for the game.
  • Xbox Series S/X: Starting at £249 for the console + £50 for the game.
  • Google Stadia: Free to sign up or £90 for the Premier Edition + £50 for the game.
  • PC: Varied cost, but based on requirements £500-600 + £50 for the game.
  • GeForce Now: Free to sign up or paid subscription £24.95 for 6 months + £50 for the game.

Based solely on price, Stadia and GeForce Now can be used for free and then you factor in the cost of the game, making it the obvious choice. Given the performance issues the game had at launch on last-gen consoles, I would avoid that area entirely. Meaning if you were ignoring cloud gaming, the Xbox Series S would be the way to go. But that would be an extra £249 compared to cloud gaming, and if price model is a concern, that’s a significant initial cost that doesn’t include the game itself.

Sure, you could have a monster of a PC setup with the latest CPU and GPU if ultimate performance and Ray Tracing is your scene. Or.. you could pay £75 altogether and run GeForce Now with RTX On.

Now, a counter to that could be: “But you always need WiFi to play it if it’s in the cloud, some people have data caps.” And that is true, data caps could pose as a problem to someone who’s looking for the right platform. No platform is perfect and there are some limitations.

Another thing I hear about pricing models is to do with the subscription charge: “I don’t want to pay to play online or for something I won’t ever own myself, I prefer physical copies.”

Let’s start with the charge to play online. As far as I am aware, if you own the game, you do not need Stadia Pro to play online, as is the same with GeForce Now. Luna is slightly different in the sense that you start out with Luna+ and all the games are included. But some people seem to forget that PlayStation and Xbox have subscription services that are needed to play any online game (with a few exceptions), and this is not factored into the cost of the game. For the sake of being open, let’s look at the costs of these services and the benefits:

  • PS Plus – £6.99 a month, includes online multiplayer, free games every month, cloud saves and discounts.
  • Xbox Live Gold – £6.99 a month, includes online multiplayer, free games every month and discounts.
  • Stadia Pro – £8.99 a month, includes free games every month and regular free games outside of that, access to 4K, HDR and 5.1 Surround Sound and discounts.
  • Luna+ – $5.99 a month, includes a full library of games to play with no additional cost, soon to be in 4K and can be streamed on 2 devices at the same time.
  • GeForce Now Founders Edition – £24.95 per 6 months, includes priority access, extended session playtimes and RTX On.

Each platform has their benefits and drawbacks, but cloud gaming requires no subscription charge to play online (again, with the exception of Luna that has no additional charges for its games, unless you are going for the Ubisoft+ subscription also).

As for the physical copy argument, I understand it to an extent. Back in the day I had shelves of physical copies and the odd collectors edition sat alongside it. The feeling of going to a shop and buying the game on the disk and unwrapping is a great one, I agree. Limited run physical copies are also amazing too and great for the collectors out there; I’m awaiting a copy of Gris for Nintendo Switch (which coincidentally would make a fabulous addition to the cloud platforms). But the age-old argument of “I have the disc, I own the game” isn’t valid.

Just as you would digitally, you own a license to the game for your own personal use. It does not mean it belongs to you. Just as people say “if *insert platform here* goes down, that’s your games gone and your money wasted”, the exact same could happen to a game on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo or Steam. In an increasingly online age, downloads and streaming will be the go to, and except for the collectors of physical hardware, discs and cartridges will eventually vanish.

So, the moral of the story? Play where you want to. Each platform has a cost associated to it, but if you are looking for solid performance at a good price, cloud gaming is the cheapest and most accessible without the need for giant consoles, provided your internet is half decent. If you’re worried about pricing models, sign up to Stadia for free and play Destiny 2 for free to test it out, or carry a compatible game over to GeForce Now and sign up for free. The choices are becoming endless and in some ways cheaper, whether people against cloud gaming like it or not.

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