Gaming Industry Execs Discuss Streaming Service Potential, E-Sports Growth

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As Google and Apple enter the space, gaming leaders are looking ahead to what the future of the industry will look like.

Taking the stage at the L.A. Games Conference on Tuesday morning in Hollywood, execs from industry leaders such as Ubisoft and Riot Games discussed the growing influence of game streaming services, subscription platforms, free-to-play business models and the explosion of e-sports in North America. 

Chris Early, vp partnerships and revenue at Ubisoft; Skybound Games CEO Ian Howe; Chris Enock, vp publishing at Riot Games; Aaron Loeb, president of studios at FoxNext Games; and Taewon Yun, general manager of global publications at Super Evil Megacorp took the stage at the W Hotel for a 40-minute conversation about the state of the industry.

The talk quickly turned to game streaming services, one of the hottest topics of 2019, and tech giant Google's recently announced Stadia service, which was revealed in March at GDC in San Francisco. "We should be developing for those services now," Early said. His company's Assassin's Creed Odyssey was the game that Google chose to demo its new tech last year, when the tech company offered a free trial of the game to stream through its Chrome browser.

Such streaming services have been referred to as "Netflix for games," but Enock believes that may be a bit of a misnomer. "I don’t think you’re going to see a 'Netflix for gaming,' because of how people customize their gaming experiences. There’s an opportunity to do a lot more than Netflix or a Hulu can do," he told the crowd.

Another trending topic recently has been subscription services in gaming (EA announced Tuesday that it would be bringing its own service, EA Access, to the PlayStation 4 in July) and the panel had differing thoughts on the issue.

"We never seem to make as much as when we just put things on sale from time to time," Early said of subscription services. "The only subscription model that potential works [for us] is what EA is doing, where it’s all EA products."

Yun's perspective was even more dire. "We start to lose great games that come out of publishers like Ubisoft, who make great narrative games," he said. Contrarily, Yun noted that cloud gaming "is a saving grace for AAA games, because it has a bigger audience."

"The changes in tech and distribution are always secondary to if it's a good game, is it a good experience?" posited Howe.

Loeb, who has a Hollywood pedigree, compared the current conversation surrounding subscription gaming services to more traditional media. "Games as a service are as different from AAA games as films are from television," he said.

As the conversation turned to e-sports, which analytics firm Newzoo has projected to generate revenues of $1.79 billion by 2022, Enock echoed much of what has been heard in recent years about the growth of the industry. 

"I think we’ll see a huge growth in viewership of e-sports," he said. Riot Games are the makers of League of Legends, one of the most profitable e-sports brands on the planet. "How do I reach people who are watching less TV?" Enock asked. "The answer is going to be through e-sports and games."