Are Cloud Servers the Future of Video Game Retail?

Capcom surprised everyone recently by revealing that they are releasing Resident Evil 7 on Nintendo Switch. That news wasn’t too shocking on its own but what really caught people off-guard is the manner in which the game is going to be released.

When Resident Evil 7 releases for Switch in Japan later this month, it will be released as a cloud-based “rental.” Gamers will be able to stream the game for 15 minutes free of charge. After that, they’ll need to pay about $18 to purchase the right to continue to play the game…for 180 days.

Why would anyone do that? Well, that’s what makes this whole thing interesting. Resident Evil 7 is a game that you can beat in about 8-10 hours on its normal difficulty level. Add a few more hours to that for harder difficulty levels, a few more hours for the game’s DLC, and the possibility that you might want to replay the game at some point…but most people are not going to play Resident Evil 7 for anywhere close to 180 days. As such, the idea of paying such a low price for the chance to see everything the game has to offer is certainly appealing.

Not everyone is thrilled about this offer, though. At a time when DRM clauses and the growing digital purchase industry have people more concerned than ever about whether they actually “own” what they purchase, the idea of companies exploring more ways to sell games without actually selling them is a cause for concern.

There’s also the matter of this particular deal’s facts and figures. $18 for 180 days of access isn’t bad when you consider you’ll be able to see everything that Resident Evil 7 has to offer in that time, but is the $30 to $40 you’re saving worth trading in your ability to ever play the game again? Maybe it is, but then again, it’s hard to know that before you actually play the game and $18 isn’t exactly market price for a video game “rental.”

None of that even touches upon issues like the reliability and relative strength of internet connections and their ability to stream games, the way that this business model might impact a developer’s willingness to create big-budget single-player titles, or how the content offered in that game might be affected by the knowledge that players will only play it for a period of a handful of months (at most).

Perhaps it’s too early to begin speculating on the future of this model, but Capcom is a major game developer applying this model to a big port of one of their major games. We’ve seen similar models used for streaming services, but those services featured a variety of titles that users could access at any time. In this instance, we’re talking about a single game. We also don’t think that Capcom is the first company to discuss the validity of such a service.

Maybe those other companies won’t rush to utilize this idea, but you do have to wonder whether this revenue model is an anomaly or the future of video game retail.

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Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd covers the gaming industry including indies, consoles, PCs, iOS and Android apps, as well as topics related to entertainment and technology. He also writes for IndieGameSource and DenOfGeek, and has his own blog at PixelCritique.com.

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