The evolution of gaming business models
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The world of video games has undergone several metamorphoses since its inception, and these changes are particularly visible through its business models.
In the past, the act of buying a game was very similar to buying a book or a film: an initial cost gave access to a complete experience. Game cartridges, then CDs and DVDs, were physical, palpable objects sold in shops.
The digital age has turned this initial approach on its head. With the advent of download platforms such as Steam or the PlayStation Network, gamers were able to buy dematerialised games. This reduced distribution costs and paved the way for flexible business models. One of the first to emerge was the subscription model, popularised by massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft. Instead of a one-off payment, players pay a regular fee to access the game.
But it was the arrival of the "free-to-play" model that turned the industry on its head. Offering a game for free, then monetising via micro-transactions for cosmetic or functional elements has become the norm, especially on mobile.
While this model has enabled millions of gamers to access games without financial barriers, it has also generated criticism. The temptation to push consumption, to create "pay-to-win" mechanics (providing an advantage to players who pay), or to encourage impulse purchases, has sometimes damaged the perception of these games.
With the expansion of digital technology, other formats have emerged: downloadable content, offering extensions to the initial experience, or Gaming as a Service, transforming the game into a continually updated and monetised service.
The history of gaming is one of constant evolution
Today, Web3 and blockchain technology hold the promise of a new breakthrough. While some see it as a mere fad, it is undeniable that this new ecosystem offers tantalising prospects for rethinking the video game economy. With non-fungible tokens (NFTs), gamers have the opportunity to truly own digital items.
In contrast to traditional in-game purchases, these items can be sold, traded and sometimes used in different virtual universes. For example, virtual shoes developed by Nike could soon be worn in Electronic Arts sports games. The digital object becomes an asset, a value in itself, creating a circular economy where the gamer is at the heart of the transactions.
The history of gaming is one of constant evolution, reflecting technological advances and the aspirations of gamers. With Web3, an era of empowerment, real ownership and community involvement may be upon us, placing the gamer no longer as a mere consumer, but as a central player in a universe that they help to shape.