Subscription fatigue encapsulates 2019, as everyone and their mom wants to sell you an overpriced subscription to something.
In the streaming world, Disney Plus has joined the likes of HBO Max, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Crackle, Mubi, Acorn TV, and Freeform. If you liked Loot Crate, there is about fifty thousand likewise subscription boxes focusing on everything from dog treats to bacon to stickers to socks, makeup and ready-to-make meals. And every video game on Earth feels like it needs to sell you a paid monthly subscription full of useless in-game currency, loot boxes, and virtual cosmetic gear that have absolutely no real world value and might not exist once the game’s developers stop supporting the game.
The media industry is no stranger to this, though to be fair paid newspaper and magazine subscriptions have been industry standard for over a hundred years. Media subscriptions are also designed knowing that they are most likely not going to be the only publication a household will purchase, with most households most likely having a desire to keep current with the local newspaper, a national news publication, and maybe a few magazines that write about topics that interest them. This is not necessarily the case with subscription models for other industries, as they all hope that they can be the sole subscription service a household pays for, and they have their prices reflect that, whether or not the value of the service is anywhere close to it.
Not everything needs a subscription, especially if you’re not selling anything tangible (I’m looking at you, $74.99 Wizarding World Gold subscription service, and every individual mobile game subscription ever invented). And while giving consumers the choice to seek out ultra-specific niche subscriptions to things they like seems good on paper, nobody is going to pay for seven of any given subscription (most households cannot maintain seven hefty subscriptions in general, let alone of the same thing).
Subscription inundation has created a culture of the haves and the have nots, as our entertainment is cannibalized and shoehorned into 50 separate subscription services that all demand roughly the same price, but only a few actually have the amount of content needed to actually justify their price, especially in the streaming industry.
Junk and food subscription boxes the likes of Loot Crate and HelloFresh prove to be interesting novelties that can introduce you to new things, but their need to meet corporate overheads and inflated shipping charges create a situation in which you will always pay far more for simple things that you can purchase yourself for cheap without said subscriptions.
Paid subscriptions need to be warranted, and it seems like too many companies are jumping on this trend in hopes of making as much money they can before it collapses. Subscription services are overpricing the value of their convenience, especially in a time where anyone with an Amazon Prime account can order almost anything in the world with free shipping.
Bundling might be the ultimate solution to subscription fatigue, as Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, and several cable providers have found ways to negotiate with developers to reduce the overall costs of individual streaming services by combining them into convenient packages for consumers.
But until individual, smaller subscription services go the way of the dinosaur, expect more of them to appear and, ultimately, more of them to fail.