Earlier this month, Google announced a slew of new features for Android developers like Instant Apps to demo paid games to In-App Updates that are particularly useful for the large downloads. This emphasis on gaming reflects how profitable the category is with a possible “Play Pass” subscription service now in the works.

The subscription model has thrived for movies, TV shows, and of course music. Google is attempting to create a dominant service of the latter type with YouTube Music, while YouTube TV provides access to OTA and cable channels.

Now, Google might be planning a subscription service for Android apps and games on the Play Store. XDA yesterday published references to a “Play Pass” service that was found in the Google Play Store. There are few lines of code, but one clearly references “PLAYPASS_SUBSCRIPTION.”

Play Pass was first spotted in June, but XDA recently received a relevant Google Opinion Rewards survey asking about a “Pass.” Meanwhile, we’ve confirmed that the latest version (12.3.19) of the Play Store still features these strings.

Imagine your app store has a subscription that offers hundreds of dollars worth of paid apps and games for a monthly fee. How well does “Pass” describe this service?

“Play Pass” could entail users paying a monthly fee to get access to a selection of premium games that would otherwise have to be purchased individually. The apps would likely include some form of DRM so that they’ll be disabled or deleted if a user cancels the subscription.

Such a service would most likely cater to gamers, even despite the inclusion of “paid apps.” Most applications today feature a paid cloud sync backend, and adding a Play Pass subscription on-top would be confusing to users.

Meanwhile, even for games, this model is slightly strange. Most apps that people play today are free and rely on in-app subscriptions. For example, Fortnite and in-world skins to trivial games like HQ Trivia.

As such, Google would need to court more expensive or premium titles that offer an upfront cost. This somewhat limits the selection of apps that could be included in Play Pass. Additionally, it’s unclear how much developers will be compensated instead of getting an initial download cost.

Then again, Google — as a company — is clearly interested in gaming. Project Stream is the company’s attempt to stream AAA titles in the Chrome browser, while this effort could be accompanied by dedicated hardware to play on a big screen. Meanwhile, Area 120 is reportedly developing a social trivia game.

Dylan contributed to this article


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