In this week’s gaming news breakdown, Google launched its own game subscription service for Android, Nintendo released Mario Kart Tour to a slew of mixed reviews, and Facebook revealed a number of improvements coming to the Oculus Quest.
Google launches Google Play Pass subscription service
Following Apple’s lead, Google has launched its own mobile subscription service called Google Play Pass this week. According to The Verge, CNET, and TechCrunch, Google Play Pass will offer Android users over 350 apps and games that are void of ads and in-app purchases for $4.99 a month. To kick off the subscription service, Google is offering users a 10-day free trial as well as a special $1.99 a month introductory offer for a full year if users sign up before October 10. Even though about ⅔ of Google Play Pass is games (including known titles such as Stardew Valley, Monument Valley, LIMBO, and Risk), the service is not compiled of exclusive titles and offers users the ability to download games and apps that were available on the Play Store before the launch of Google Play Pass. The service can be shared with up to five family members and offers parental control options for guardians.
Soon after launch, press and game developers alike raised concerns over Google’s royalty model for the service. According to IGN, Google will be using an algorithm that tracks the amount of time that a user spends on a game or app to then pay developers accordingly – similar to the controversial royalty model that Spotify uses for its musicians. IGN explains, “The main criticism with this royalty model is that it seemingly rewards artists and developers for creating games that can hold onto a person’s interest longer than its competitors. This gives games with an emphasis on replayability an advantage over shorter game experiences.” The outlet also noted that Apple has not clarified how it will compensate Apple Arcade developers, either.
Nintendo releases Mario Kart Tour to mixed reviews
This week, Nintendo released Mario Kart Tour, the mobile version of the popular racing game, for iOS and Android. Unlike the console editions of the game, Mario Kart Tour features races in well-known locations across the globe and offers users the ability to play in “tour” or “frenzy mode,” completing challenges and earning points to unlock in-game items. Fans of the Mario Kart franchise were quickly disappointed, however, when they were met with long login queues, a slew of features locked behind microtransactions, and no multiplayer compatibility – a staple of the franchise. Additionally, the game offers its own subscription service that enables registered users to unlock in-game rewards and characters for $4.99 a month. Forbes, CNN, TechCrunch, and more pointed out that both Apple and Google have launched game subscription services at the same price point this month, offering users hundreds of games that are ad and in-app purchase free. The outlets were left questioning Nintendo’s intentions and speculated that the company has misread the market. TheGamer was especially disappointed and went as far as saying, “Mario Kart Tour is nothing less than a pay-to-win, microtransaction filled tragedy. The player base will never grow to what it could have been under a reasonable pricing structure, and that is a shame.”
Facebook reveals new features coming to the Oculus Quest
During Oculus Connect this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage to announce a handful of new hardware and compatibility features coming to the Oculus Rift S and Quest over the next year. The Oculus Quest received the highest number of updates and features, with notable improvements including Oculus Link, which enables players to connect their Quest to their PC through a USB cable to play Oculus Rift games; Passthrough+, a hardware update that will upgrade the view of a player’s surroundings when they step outside of their play boundaries to a clear, stereoscopic view that can also be summoned on demand; 50 Oculus Go apps will soon be available for the Quest; a new social VR world, called Facebook Horizon, will enable Quest players to chat and interact in a virtual space; and in 2020, Oculus will eliminate the need for the Oculus Touch controllers by implementing hand and finger tracking. Outlets such as Engadget, Variety, and Fast Company predicted that the new features coming to the Quest make the Rift S obsolete, with PCWorld saying, “There’s very little reason to buy a Rift S now. Quest will get you the best of both worlds, untethered VR for on-the-go play and tethered when you want to play something more intensive.”