In an age of immediate digital gratification, streaming services are marketed as the end-all, be-all, futureproof solution. PlayStation Now touts itself as a backwards compatibility killer, Gamefly Streaming is tirelessly attempting to be the Netflix of its time, but the hard realities streaming services face are always the same; streaming games only works as well as your internet does, and latency not only ruins the audiovisual aspect of the game, but it wreaks havoc on the ability to play titles that demand sharp reflexes and split-second timing. So, imagine my surprise when I see a new challenger by the name of Jump entering that particular fray.
In Jump’s own words, taken directly from their website:
Jump is an on-demand, video game subscription service that provides subscribers with unlimited access to a highly curated library of games. The service was created with the goal of delivering a unique platform for gamers to discover and play the games they want, with a special emphasis on unique, high-quality games by independent developers. Jump launches in summer 2017 with a library of more than 60 titles, first across all desktop systems and VR devices for a low monthly introductory fee of $9.99. Subscribers have a chance to expand their access to high-quality and groundbreaking video game offerings without the commitment to buy.
This sounds really nice, but I find myself asking questions from this statement alone. If the focus is on indie titles, Jump won’t be catering to the AAA gaming audience most other streaming services tend to target. That’s a fantastic thing, but it does bring worry, as selection and overall quality of titles vary wildly in the independent circuit. Ten dollars a month might not be all that bad, but affordability tends to cast doubt on the lineup and the ability to maintain a high bar of quality across the board. There are also a few contradictory statements on their website that make me feel as if things are, at best, not set in stone or at worst, not entirely above board.
When answering the question “How much does Jump cost?,” their answer is as follows:
When Jump officially launches later this year, anyone can try Jump free for 14 days. After that, Jump features an introductory price of $9.99 per month.
However, there’s something different written directly beside it, answering the question “How does the trial period work?”:
Enjoy Jump for free for seven days. We think you’ll love it.
This isn’t trying to be nitpicky, but I find it very hard to understand why you’d market a trial period as being half as long in the second sentence as it was in the first. There’s another bit that bothers me as well, and it’s somewhat more nebulous in nature. When asking “How does Jump work?,” their answer seems odd to anyone who knows how file storage traditionally works:
Using its HyperJump game delivery technology, the Jump service provides players with the same latency-free, high-quality experience as a game that is fully installed onto their device, but without long download times and without requiring large amounts of disk space.
So this would make it seem that the assets for the games are either stored elsewhere or the content is erased on the local client machine when a game is no longer being played. They go on to state:
there’s no permanent download and thus you don’t lose any significant storage space on your device
…so there’s no real permanent footprint, if this is to be believed, but it’s also paired with:
Jump delivers the best possible gaming experience via its HyperJump technology that delivers games without video streaming, which is typically plagued by lag and other issues. Jump was built using an innovative technique that provides quick loading with minimal download space required.
This seems to imply that the game is at least partially stored onto a player’s device, then erased when the game is no longer being played. With smaller indie titles, this could actually be a huge boon, but without seeing precisely how it works — which may be a closely-guarded secret, and for a damn good reason, if so — I’m left wondering how it actually functions as a replacement for per-machine installs of games. That rings especially relevant when you consider that the company offers the ability to play games via web browsers, as well as their own dedicated application.
The only other thing I find myself worried about is how indie developers get paid, since they need people buying the games they make in order to maximize profitability. Jump seems poised for ripe comparisons to Spotify, whose selection I love, at the cost of hating their treatment and compensation of artists that provide the meat of their product. I can only hope that Jump decides to pay indie developers what they’re worth per play / hour / whatever, as it’s usually far more profitable to sell a few hundred thousand copies on a moderately deep Steam sale discount than it’s likely to be on a streaming service that caters to a very specific niche.
All in all, I’m glad to see new technology and new names pop up, but I know what they’re up against, and a general feeling of being misled won’t help matters. No amount of curation will excuse that, especially if one’s worst fears and nagging doubts turn out to have factual basis.