The top headline in Wednesday's USA Today looks at the way cable companies are looking toward online and cable game profits--online profits alone are projected to reach $3.5 billion by 2009.
In the story, David Lieberman looks at the buzz in the annual cable operators convention in Atlanta centering on pay-for-play broadband games, noting that if cable doesn't jump on the bandwagon to do everything possible to support online game play for PCs and for digital cable, that telephone companies won't hesitate to fill the need for the service.
Already, multiple cable operators are rushing to provide customers with extensive backlists of titles. In the story, Cox, ReacTV, and Comcast are quoted. While I'm in town here in Atlanta for the PCA conference, I was able to learn more about Turner's initiative. While the newest games are not being made available for such services for fear that it would cut the need for people to purchase the titles for themselves, the services are already proving that a lot of games can be pulled from the archives and provided to players, who are interested in the games for nostalgia, to grasp the history of gaming, and...the biggest reason of course--because they are intriguing games.
But the question is what the buzz is from the other side--the people who are jumping on board these subscription-style services or the on-demand pay-for-play services. Is this a fad, something exciting for technology's sake but whose power will taper off once people get used to the service? Or is this the beginning of the new way to play games? And what does that mean for those who provide the platforms or who benefit most from retail sales of games, as these services begin to introduce other possibilities?
Of course the cable industry is very high on the idea--they have the most to win, providing a product for a niche that is currently not being served. But, for other players, what is there to lose? What is there to fear? And, most of all, what does the consumer want? For those of you who are hardcore gamers, is there something special about "owning" the game versus playing it through a subscription service? And, as these services become more elaborate, will there come a day where interest in owning your own game is minimal?