I don’t subscribe to GSL now, but I used to do so in the past. Here is why.
GOMeXP has just announced that GSL live stream will once again be low quality for non-subscribers. It was low for last season, before GOMeXP switched to medium at the beginning of this season.
The community is more or less divided into two groups: for versus against low quality free stream. On one hand, one can argue that this is entertainment business, and it needs revenue to survive. On the other hand, one can argue that this is killing the game because it moves people away from the game. I agree with both sides to a certain extent, but there is something that prevents me from subscribing. That is consistency.
It occurs to me that GOMeXP does not have a clear refined plan for the business model, and this is evident in the recent switch back to low quality stream for non-subscribers. Some argue that if you love Starcraft, then you should subcribe as this is not a charity. On the flip side of the coin, subscribers have the right to know what they pay for, and not simply donate to support the scene as it is not charity. If consumers think the offering is worthy, they will purchase it. After all, we are all value conscious. While it seems clear that consumers pay X amount of dollars to get a certain thing, it must also be clear to the consumers that the thing they get is worth X dollars more than what they will get if they don’t pay. I’m not arguing whether the $7.99 a month is worthy to watch higher quality instead of low, but it is whether the paid benefits will be upheld. I am skeptical to be honest. If GOMeXP can switch back to low from medium in the middle of the season, it is safe for me to say that they may switch back to medium for free subscribers again. Thus, as a normal consumer, I don’t find it justified to pay a certain amount for a premium service that may be open to people who don’t pay. Imagine you paid extra for a business class flight, and people who didn’t pay that extra amount are seated next to you simply because there are available seats in the business class. I may feel more satisfied to pay the business class price to sit in the economy class, if I perceive everyone gets the same treatment for the same cost. It is down to consumers’ perception of value.
Apart from the live stream quality, the access to the vods is what people are willing to pay for. The vods were not available to the non-subscribers for a period of time, and this is a good incentive for subscription. The access to vods was the main reason I subscribed for two years until GOM started to work with Twitch. I didn’t continue to subscribe because watching vods on Twitch was a painful experience. Interestingly, I may eventually subscribe again if they stick to this plan, as I want to have access to vods. However, not surprisingly, the vods were later available to everyone on their youtube channel during the season. I think it is all good that the vods are available to all after a season has ended, but it may affect how the subscribers perceive the value of subscription when the vods are available to anyone during a season. The inconsistency in the business model actually justifies the decision to not pay for anything, because this is the arguably the best choice based on general game theory.
In short, we as primates don’t deal with perceived unfairness well.
To make it even more annoying, the vods on the youtube channel are not updated. I initially thought that it was done on purpose to sweeten the deal for the subscribers, and not completely closing the door on the non-subscribers. However, the updated vods are actually available on their apps (Android and Apple), official Blizzard WCS website, and GOMeXP website itself. You can compare the printscreen images below (taken on 11 June 2015).
The first two series of the Ro8 were played last night, and only Ro32 vods are available on their youtube channel. Yet, the Ro16 vods are available on GOMeXP website and WCS website through GOMeXP youtube videos. Why don’t they just make sure the same videos are available on their own channels if they are on their own website and WCS website? I don’t get it. Like I have said, I thought the vods are not updated on the youtube channel on purpose for subscription benefits, but it doesn’t seem to make sense now.
I will want to believe that there are undisclosed reasons for this rather than GOMeXP being stupid. Nevertheless, the problem with information asymmetry and inconsistency discourages me to subscribe. The fact that there is direct competition from SSL and Proleague, which provide high quality stream and up-to-date vods uploaded on youtube in two hours from the live broadcast, it is difficult to convince myself it is worthy to pay the subscription fee.
Sort this out, and I will subscribe. If not, I won’t be surprised that GOMeXP may fade away eventually.