How a studio created their own subscription company, and what they predict for the future.
With Google Stadia making its first entrance into the video game subscription / streaming sphere, many are looking at the early shortcomings of the platform as indicators of trouble afoot in the whole space. But Stadia is not the first company to open its doors to subscription and it certainly won’t be the last. Utomik is just one of many game subscription companies stepping onto the internet superhighway. We sat down with Doki Tops, founder of Utomik, to find out just how they are navigating the tricky waters Stadia is treading.
Why build an indie-first subscription service?
There are several reasons why we chose to build an indie service for gamers. Utomik’s roots are indie: we are born from indie game development studio Eximion. We have a natural passion for indies and an understanding of the challenges involved in bringing these games to fruition. We believe that a subscription service model is a great way for indies to get exposure and build an audience.
Trying something unknown is very easy to do via a subscription and our smart download tech makes it even simpler. We love it when our players discover cool games that aren’t the obvious mainstream titles. We also believe that it gives us a unique position in the ever-growing subscription landscape.
How do you draw games and their developers to your system?
When it’s clearly the right fit and high quality, we do pay for content. Most importantly though, we want to help get alternative names out there and help indies to promote their game. An example of how we do this is through our presence at GamesCom where we partner with the Indie Arena booth and sponsor 60+ indies so they can showcase their game at the biggest games show in the world. We have since signed up five of those games.
For games that are already featured on Utomik, we have generated well over 15,000 wishlists, reached 600,000+ gamers and featured them on our social media and Twitch. It’s a win-win situation where we help to generate greater exposure for games and get great content for our platform.
Where will streaming take the gaming industry? What will we see in 2020?
Streaming will start to become a bigger part of the landscape; however, I think native play will remain dominant. Whilst it requires local hardware to play, it is very reliable and predictable whereas streaming is not. Games like Fortnite where players play over 100 hours a month will be a massive drain cost-wise when being distributed via streaming. Utomik is positioning itself to be part of this landscape.
5G deployment will also help to create an environment in which streaming will become attractive for many types of games. The challenge here, though, is that the economics are still problematic.
The more interesting question for me is where streaming will take us beyond 2020 as I believe for all its flaws streaming will create new ways to engage with games but will also enable games to be developed that currently aren’t possible. Bandwidth limitations for multiplayer games may soon vanish, meaning that 1000+ multiplayer games can work. Massive multiplayer games will get a new meaning. It might take longer than we want but it’s on the horizon, more of a ‘when’ not ‘if’. But for now, streaming still has a lot of issues for many users that need to be overcome.
How can you offer your hand in that future?
Utomik wants to be where streaming technology is. Initiatives such as ‘Shadow’ and ‘Parsec’
How do you plan to navigate the issues of ownership that put so many players off subscribing to their games?
One way would be to offer users to purchase games. That was initially our plan at Utomik but it’s not what our users wanted at the time. We need to see if this has changed significantly. If we compare it to purchasing and owning music, it was seen as a barrier but streaming has now taken over as the main way of listening to our favourite songs. However, my instincts lead me to believe that games might be different and people want to take ownership of something. It might just be that it’s not the digital copy of the game but a figurine or a shirt.
How do you plan to navigate the issues Stadia is facing with data consumption and requirements?
We are a smart download-based service. We have the lowest amount of data usage possible. When you boot up a game our smart download tech figures out which bits need to be downloaded to start playing, meaning you get into the game super-fast. We make sure all content you need in the future will be there before you need it. In most cases, you can get into the game 10 times faster, in some cases even 100 times faster. The technology scales with your internet speed, so it starts to works well on 4Mbit but awesome on 100Mbit.
Tell us more about the Ninja Squad – will this collaborative structure play a major role in the future of streaming or is this a stepping stone to a scaling your library?
The Ninja Squad is mostly about curation, having customers as a core part of deciding what content we source and as a way to get continuous direct customer feedback. The squad was born out of start-up life. We wanted great quality control of games going live on our platform but had very little resources to do so. Our Ninjas are Utomik fans that love to help us move forward, play games, report back to us and tell us if games are good or not. We hope to grow this concept in the future as the direct contact to fans and customers as it’s both fun and very valuable. They are usually also the first to try new stuff.
Any exciting upcoming plans?
There are some very interesting partnerships we are working on and some cool features coming in 2020. All I can say for now is, watch this space!
Utomik is doing some interesting things in its curation and technical development, and with the team’s development background and existing relationship with indies, it might just be the example the streaming and subscription industry needs to lead itself.
Tabs’ perfect afternoon consists of a cuppa, a biscuit tin, and a good RPG. When she’s not writing, commissioning and editing indie game features, she’s writing for her own blog, Musings Of A Mario Minion.