Indie Dev Suggests Google Play Pass Business Model Could Kill Smaller Games

Subscription services are putting their hands on mobile gaming, which is one of the most prolific and yet so uncharted territories for video games.

Over the last few days, we’ve witnessed the release of Apple Arcade for iOS, with tones of brilliant (such as Sayonara Wild Heart) and often exclusive new games (such as Shinseaki and Rayman Mini) available at launch, and Google Play Pass for Android.

However, it looks like the business model which is being implemented in one of those services, and the Google Play Pass mentioned above could kill smaller games as it is paying devs royalties based on the amount of time people spend on them.

“If it took you three hours to beat the Untitled Goose Game, that probably would have translated into a payment of a few nickels rather than the $20 or so you paid for it,” indie dev Will O’Neill (Riverbond, among the others) said on Twitter.

“And even if games at that level will always get money up front because they have value in getting people in the door, it still decimates everything,” he added. “Indie game developers are not indie musicians. We don’t tour. (…) This is not a future that finds a new equilibrium.”

This could both be a push for improvement under the longevity aspect, if you think that for example Shinseaki is a mobile game but takes you around 7 hours to complete (even though it’s from Capcom, so far from being indie), but also a huge limit for smaller teams with less resources who often make titles with a reduced amount of playtime not for an authorial choice but because they don’t have money for more assets.

Xbox Game Pass has seemingly found a better solution in that sense, with advance payments for titles which are introduced in the service every month. Hopefully, Google will reconsider this in the long run and decide to make some serious investment in gaming outside of Stadia, instead of being so (also legitimately) cautious about the business.