The Digital Subscription vs. Ownership Debate

The big success story sweeping the digital landscape is the infamous Netflix business model, which has unwittingly created a long line of copycats who are desperate to imitate their rapid ascent to success in the modern world.

Recently the videogame publisher EA announced plans to offer their own subscription service called ‘EA Access’ in a collaborative effort with Microsoft and the Xbox One console. With many games retailing at $70 each, the allure of having access to a vault full of EA games for $29.99 a year sounds like a very tempting offer on the surface, but could also prompt other publishers such as Ubisoft to follow suit.

However the announcement was received by mixed reactions as many people are coming to the realisation that the average person on the street, no longer owns anything at all in the digital world that continues to move forward, whilst physical media is dying at an accelerated speed.

Shelves that used to contain video cassettes of movies, were replaced with DVD’s, followed by Blu-Ray discs before finally being replaced by all you can eat subscription services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The music industry has also changed dramatically, and despite hard-core music fans keeping vinyl alive, the reality is more and more people are turning away from purchasing or even downloading illegal music in favour of services such as Spotify where you can think of an artist or song at any moment depending on your mood at the time and listen within a few seconds.

Books are safe though right? Step forward the Kindle Unlimited that not only removes the physical book from our lives but Amazon’s latest Netflix style venture intends to remove ownership of a book too and lets you have access to an entire library at your disposal for $9.99 a month.

Even your humble PC at home or in the office traditionally involved a physical install of the product, but the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS) where you or your company can subscribe to application services such as Microsoft Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud in the cloud further illustrates a decline in ownership in favour of subscription.

Are we looking into the past with rose tinted glasses? Even with physical media, we essentially owned a license to use the item.

There is a strong argument that your heavily financed car is actually leased and that big purchase you made on your credit card, but only make the minimum payment each month, also means you don’t actually own the item yet and probably never will.

Millennials who do not have the same connection with physical media as the generation before them, will be quick to embrace this growing trend, but this does not stop a growing number of critics fearing for a future where nobody actually owns anything any-more.

The digital age is highlighting how the average person no longer has any saleable or negotiable assets but is this bad thing?

Digital Subscription vs. Ownership is a topic that we will continue to debate for the foreseeable future, but ultimately things come and go and although we probably don’t want to admit this, everything is temporary, even our own bodies.

Is it a fools paradise to replace physical media with what is essentially just zeroes and ones?

As a consumer, my personal viewpoint is that I am happy to say goodbye to shelves full of physical media that quickly became dust magnets and cluttered your living environment. Hundreds of items that were seldom enjoyed but used as a badge of honour in a welcome to my home, this is the cool stuff I like kind of way.

Although I understand it can be a little overwhelming for many, having the freedom to enjoy an unlimited library of books, music and movies before returning home to play through a vault of games appeals to me on every level, whilst also curbing any thoughts about exploring piracy because it’s really not worth the hassle.

However this is my personal choice, and more than aware of other big questions such as “Can there be an economy in which no one owns anything?” so I am really interested on your own personal experiences and opinions on this controversial subject.

Do you embrace digital subscriptions/rentals or are you resisting the urge? I would love to hear your thoughts on ownership in the digital world.

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