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Wed, June 26

Streaming to subscriptions: Video games enter new frontiers

(Adobe Image)

(Adobe Image)

NEW YORK – 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.

Game retailer GameStop's shares fell Wednesday, a day after it projected a revenue drop of 5% to 10% in 2019. And major video game publishers Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard have announced layoffs.

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 console-free 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 video-game 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 had promise, but failed to garner a big enough user base. It shuttered in 2015.

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