Game designer Josef Fares, who led the development teams at Hazelight on Brothers, A Way Out, and It Takes Two, isn’t sold on the idea of subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. Speaking to Polygon, Fares said he’s scared about “the Netflix system” in the context of games because he isn’t sure how one very important piece comes together: How do developers get paid?
“I’m not really sure if the Netflix system will work with games; I’m not sure how that’s going to work in the long-term […] The only thing that scares me a little bit is that if you have a system where… How do you get paid? I’m not sure,” he said.
Fares offered up a potential business model structure for a subscription service where a developer gets paid based on the amount of time someone spends playing it. But that doesn’t work out well for developers who make shorter games. In the end, Fares said he likes the idea of a system like Game Pass that has the potential to get people to play more games than ever–and Microsoft’s data says that is the case–but if it comes at the expense of the developer, then that’s a problem.
“Let’s say you have a Netflix model and you get paid for the amount of time people play your game. And if you have a shorter game, a narrative game, then you will obviously get less cash for that,” he said. “I’m super open to more playing games. But if it affects how we make games, then we have a problem.”
For what it’s worth, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has been open and transparent about how there is no one path for payments to developers for a service like Game Pass. The executive has said Microsoft cuts deals with developers that are specific to their projects. Spencer also confimed what Fares said: that Microsoft has struck deals with developers to pay them based on the amount of time their game in Game Pass is played.
“We’re open [to] experimenting with many different partners, because we don’t think we have it figured out,” Spencer said.
Hazelight’s A Way Out is currently available on EA Play, which is now bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, but whether or not that decision involved Fares in any way is unknown.
Fares’ next game, It Takes Two, launches on March 26 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC, as well as PS4 and Xbox One. Like Hazelight’s last games, it can only be played in co-op.
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