Outer Wilds dev says subscriptions give ‘weirder things’ a chance to shine
Creative lead says experience on Xbox Game Pass has been “awesome”
Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass give “weirder things” a chance to shine, according to Loan Verneau, the co-creative lead at Outer Wilds studio Mobius Digital.
Mobius raised over $126,000 from almost 1,000 backers to help develop space exploration game Outer Wilds, which was inspired by films including Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey and challenges players to “uncover the mysteries of a solar system stuck in a time loop”.
The game launched for Xbox One (including on Game Pass) and PC in May 2019, and Verneau told GamesIndustry.biz that being on Microsoft’s subscription service had been a great experience.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Microsoft’s gaming services marketing head Ben Decke recently claimed that both small and large games have benefited significantly from being part of Xbox Game Pass.
“After an [average] Xbox owner joins Game Pass, they play 40 percent more games and they play 30 percent more genres,” he said. “And the number of games they’re playing goes up not just inside the Game Pass catalogue.”
While Outer Wilds was originally planned for release on PC, Mac and Linux through Steam, Mobius released the PC version of the title as a timed Epic Games Store exclusive, angering some backers who claimed they wouldn’t have supported it had they known.
While Verneau didn’t reference the Outer Wilds PC release strategy, and it’s unclear if he had any influence over it at all, he told GI.biz that competition between different platforms is key to the health of the games business.
“My personal take is that for any industry, it’s all a question of monopolies,” he said. “And our industry is filled with monopolies on so many levels, from tools to platforms. And I’ve learned enough economics to know what that means and to think it’s a really problematic thing for both players and game developers.
“As long as we manage to break these monopolies and have competition at every level, I think we’ll be fine. Whether or not we can get there? Monopolies are very good at making people think they like it, because they have all the money to put on marketing. That’s my personal worry. For as long as we have competition between platforms, publishers, and distributors, game developers will [be able to reach our audience].”
The Epic Games Store offers developers an 88 per cent share of the revenue their games bring in, compared to the 70/30 per cent revenue split offered by Steam.
The more attractive revenue split has helped Epic secure some major PC exclusives including Metro: Exodus, Borderlands 3 and Shenmue III.
Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney has said the company’s strategy of signing PC exclusives for its digital storefront is the only way it can challenge Steam.
Outer Wilds also released for PlayStation 4 in October 2019.