Outer Wilds Developer Says Game Subscription Services May Let "Weirder Things" Thrive

Outer Wilds Developer Says Game Subscription Services May Let "Weirder Things" Thrive

"It's brought a lot of players to the game who would not have known about it otherwise."

As 2019 drew to a close, Mobius Digital's Outer Wilds took home several accolades, including a few Game of the Year awards. It's deserved recognition for the studio's first title, and more impressive considering that Outer Wilds isn't just an exploration-heavy game with no combat and difficult puzzles—Mobius also bucked standard industry models for its funding and release.

In a new interview at GamesIndustry.biz, co-creative lead Loan Verneau shared his thoughts on how the subscription business model affected the launch of Outer Wilds and how he believes subscriptions stand to shake up the industry:

We're on Game Pass for Xbox, and it's been really awesome because I think it's brought a lot of players to the game who would not have known about it otherwise[...] So I think that's been a big shift. The same way it's changed the TV and movie worlds, the subscription system is also going to impact the game industry very significantly. We're starting to see that, and starting to see it maybe unlock the market to weirder things and more original things that would have been more risky beforehand.

Born from a student project that took home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at 2015's Independent Games Festival Awards, Outer Wilds' long journey to a full release embraced other nontraditional business models apart from Game Pass. It was the first title to seek investment on Fig, and (to the chagrin of some Fig backers) launched on the PC in May as an Epic Games Store exclusive near the height of consumer backlash against the trend of Epic exclusivity. Outer Wilds was later released for the PS4 in October.

According to Microsoft, there's some data to support Verneau's idea that game subscription services could be a boon for stranger, innovative titles. Agostino Simonetta, the European lead for ID@Xbox indie publishing program, claims that 91% of Game Pass subscribers say they've tried a game they wouldn't have played at all otherwise, and that subscribers play 30% more genres on average.

Microsoft's not the only company embracing the game subscription model. Sony recently reconfigured its PlayStation Now subscription service to be more competitive with Game Pass, and Google's Stadia Pro service permanently grants new games every month.

Later in the interview Verneau adds that he believes monopolies pose a threat to indie development, and that the Mobius team prides itself on avoiding crunch. With a game like Outer Wilds (USgamer's #2 game of 2019) to the team's name, other developers might do well to take notes from Mobius and Verneau. Game subscription services might not reinvent the entire industry, but they'll almost certainly be partnering with more studios like Mobius in the coming years.

For more on Outer Wilds, check out Jake Green's review and USG's extensive guides section.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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