When the Xbox One was first announced, Microsoft stated that the new console would no longer use physical media, instead requiring downloads for all games. Later, it stated that the Xbox One would use discs, but all games had to be installed and would no longer work with any other console. Fortunately, within months, Microsoft returned to a multi-use disc model, so gamers can still use online video game rental services to try games before they buy.
However, one message became very clear: By the next console generation, gamers will not use physical media. Although you can still rent new PS4, Xbox One and Wii U games for the next few years, the next iteration of these consoles might not ship with a disc drive. However, there will always be a demand for services that allow users to enjoy media without purchasing the full package.
Netflix showed the world that people want to watch movies without buying them, and although the streaming service can only show the TV shows and movies it has licensed, its growing online user base points to greater consumer trends. With the technology available today, it's time for a Netflix-like service for video games. Fortunately, four companies are paving the way for video game streaming services.
GameTap gained attention when it launched as a store for retro games on the PC. As it's grown as a service, GameTap now offers a premium service for video game streaming. The selection of new games is limited, and most of the hot titles are several years old. Fortunately, GameTap is the best source for retro games, and it offers many original and exclusive games, much like Netflix's new original shows. Although the service only costs about $10 a month, its limited selection makes it less appealing for most gamers.
OnLive promised high-quality streaming for the most popular games, but this service fails to gain any ground in the gaming space. The service invested in a microconsole and controller, but poor sales made it a failed investment. Today, the service offers its streaming service on many devices for $10 a month, but there are very few games to choose from.
The most promising chance for a video game streaming service is Gaikai, which Sony purchased in 2012. Like the above services, Gaikai built its name with the promise to stream the newest and best games shortly after launch. Although the service hasn't launched beyond beta, the technology caught the attention of Sony. When Sony revealed the PlayStation 4, Gaikai took the stage and promised that PS4 owners would be able to stream the entire back catalog of PlayStation games.
Since the reveal, Sony and Gaikai have defined the streaming service. Subscribers will be able to play select PlayStation 3 games on the PS4. Later, Sony will move the service to the PlayStation Vita and PS3, and if all goes according to plan, non-gaming devices will be able to stream games. Although Sony has not revealed a price, Gaikai will launch in the U.S. sometime in 2014. Hopefully, the service will have a reasonable price and will have a strong selection of games.
Although video game streaming services are struggling to gain ground, the popularity and availability of services like Netflix prove that many consumers want to pay a monthly fee for a huge selection of media. Within the next few years, streaming video game services will continue to rise. Although online video game rental services may disappear, gamers will still have the opportunity to try before they buy.
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