How game streaming services are luring the next wave of subscribers

Even after seeing rapid growth when players were forced to stay home, streaming services are preparing to attract the next wave of members.
Written by Ross Rubin, Contributor

Back in March, I wrote about how the pandemic had fueled growth for game services and offered some thoughts on what, if anything, might continue that growth as we emerged from the pandemic. While our COVID woes are still not completely behind us and there's still much debate over when, how, and if we should return to workplaces, most people's lives are closer to what they were before quarantines than during them. What impact, then, will this have on streaming services?

I pointed to new devices, new content, and 5G as continued enablers of growth and, at least in these early days, those forces seem to be proving resilient. In the laptop form factor, we've seen recent new higher-end Chromebook devices announced by HP and Lenovo that seek to capture customers looking for a richer experience than that offered by the typical entry-level model. On the mobile side, Microsoft has shown the potential that a unique form factor, 5G, and mobile control optimization can bring to streaming games; the Surface Duo 2 represents the best mobile example of Microsoft's vision of Xbox Game Pass to date.

Finally, there's the consoles' home turf. While it has yet to fully embrace streaming games, the connected TV market continues to evolve with Amazon recently introducing its own line of connected TVs and Roku updating its portfolio to include a 4K version of its streaming stick

That leaves content. In addition to launching Marvel Avengers this week, Xbox Game Pass is slated to pick up Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Nvidia has announced that EA is bringing its games to GeForce Now, starting with four titles: Battlefield 1 Revolution, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mirror's Edge Catalyst and the imaginative Unravel Two. Nvidia describes the additions as the first step in bringing a broad EA selection into its service. While both services are seeing rapid growth, GeForce Now's free tier should help drive exposure for EA's titles. Indeed, Microsoft has had to cut prices for Xbox Game Pass in three regions: Hong Kong, Israel, and Chile.

As shown with streaming video, there's strong potential for expanding access to these services via service provider bundles. Indeed, few groups of companies are as eager to put the quarantine era behind them as the carriers, who saw interest in admittedly early 5G services plummet as mobility's steady march froze. But, particularly as carriers launch "sweet spot" midband offerings that provide an appreciable speed boost at reasonable range, they will be eager to promote offerings that take better advantage of those networks than video can. For example, this summer AT&T announced that it would offer six months of Google's Stadia Pro service to 5G subscribers. In the U.S. alone, that leaves partnership windows open for Stadia's competitors.


GeForce Now vs. Google Stadia: Good and bad in all the same ways
For both streaming game services, it's still about the small library of popular games and spotty performance.

As entertainment options return, GeForce Now readies its long game
nVidia's streaming game service attracted millions during the pandemic

AT&T and Google team up for new promotion that offers six months of free Stadia Pro
Another day, another wireless carrier getting into gaming.

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