Video games giv­ing fans bold new op­tions

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Carolina Living - BY MAE AN­DER­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

The video game in­dus­try is en­ter­ing new fron­tiers.

In the past, you plunked down $60 at GameS­top for a copy of Grand Theft Auto or Mad­den NFL and played it out – af­ter which you could trade it in or let it gather dust.

Now, you’ll in­creas­ingly have the choice of sub­scrib­ing to games, play­ing for free or pos­si­bly just stream­ing them over the in­ter­net. to your phone or TV.

Wel­come to a new world of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in an in­dus­try that hasn’t been se­ri­ously shaken up since Nin­tendo launched its home gam­ing con­sole in the U.S. in 1986 or when mo­bile gam­ing surged in pop­u­lar­ity a decade ago.

“We’re in an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple want con­tent and me­dia when they want it, how they want it,” CFRA an­a­lyst Scott Kessler said. “You can play a great video game with a con­sole or on a com­puter or with a mo­bile de­vice and you might not have to pay any­thing. That’s a dra­matic de­par­ture from even a few years ago.”

Of course, peo­ple will still buy and use tra­di­tional video games and con­soles for years to come. But as games have be­come more ac­ces­si­ble on­line and on mo­bile, it is be­com­ing harder to con­vince peo­ple to spend a chunk of money upfront, said Joost van Dre­unen, co-founder of re­search com­pany Su­perData.

Re­spond­ing to chang­ing con­sumer be­hav­ior, video game mak­ers and new en­trants like Google are of­fer­ing new ways to play.

GAME STREAM­ING

Big play­ers are en­ter­ing the arena: Google an­nounced Sta­dia, a con­sole­free game stream­ing ser­vice due out this year. The plat­form will store a game-play­ing ses­sion in the cloud and let play­ers jump across phones, lap­tops and browsers with Google’s soft­ware.

Google didn’t say how much its new ser­vice will cost, whether it will of­fer sub­scrip­tions or other op­tions, or what games will be avail­able at launch – all key el­e­ments to the suc­cess of a new videogame plat­form. Google will be hop­ing to avoid the fate of OnLive, which de­buted in 2010 and streamed high-end video games over the in­ter­net. The ser­vice failed to garner a big enough user base. It shut­tered in 2015.

SUB­SCRIP­TIONS

Ap­ple an­nounced a sub­scrip­tion ser­vice that some are call­ing the “Net­flix of Games.”

Ap­ple Ar­cade sub­scribers will get to play more than 100 games, cu­rated by Ap­ple and ex­clu­sive to the ser­vice. Games can be down­loaded and played offline – on the Ap­ple-made iPhone, iPad, Mac and Ap­ple TV. No­tably, Ap­ple says play­ers won’t have to pay for vir­tual weapons and other ex­tras – some­thing free mo­bile games typ­i­cally charge for. The com­pany didn’t say how much Ar­cade will cost when it launches this fall.

FREE-TO-PLAY GAMES

And then there is “Fort­nite,” a free-to-play game that has be­come a mas­sive hit with its “bat­tle royal” mode win­ning over mil­lions of fans. In this mode, 100 play­ers bat­tle one another for weapons and ar­mor un­til only one player is left. Cre­ated by Epic Games, which is backed by Chi­nese mo­bile be­he­moth Ten­cent, a key as­pect of the game is be­ing able to play it on any­thing from your phone to a decked-out gam­ing PC.

“I like the in­ter­ac­tive­ness and be­ing able to play with your friends,” said Pa­trick Pen­field, a Syra­cuse Uni­ver­sity stu­dent. “There are in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

Free-to-play games such as “Fort­nite” make money from in-app pur­chases. In “Fort­nite,” for in­stance, play­ers use real-world money to buy for their char­ac­ters out­fits, gear or “emotes” – brief dances that have be­come a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non.

The trend started a few years ago with “Candy Crush” and other mo­bile games that ap­pealed to ca­sual gamers. The suc­cess of Fort­nite shows that this model works with more so­phis­ti­cated styles of games, too. De­spite be­ing free to play, it raked in an es­ti­mated $2.4 bil­lion in 2018, ac­cord­ing to Su­perData.

BRYON HOULGRAVE AP

Nick Over­ton, a pro­fes­sional video game player, in­ter­acts with fans on­line while play­ing “Fort­nite.”

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