Nate let me know about a Montreal-based company called Playster with a big announcement to make today. Playster is a multiple-media subscription service that apparently wants to compete with Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Google Play Music, Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, Oyster, and GameFly…all at once. It’s been in beta for a while, but it’s coming out of beta with its full official launch today.
For $24.95 per month, Playster will provide unlimited access to movies, TV, music, video games, and e-books/audiobooks. (Or, for smaller fees, just one or more of the above.) Customers who subscribe for a whole year of the $24.95 service will receive a Playster-branded quad-core A7 Android tablet and headphones at no additional charge.
The tablet has moderate to low-end specs—2 GB RAM, 8 GB storage, 7” display, 1280×800 resolution. It’s about what I would expect from an inexpensive Chinese OEM tablet, which isn’t too surprising—they can’t spend too much of a customer’s $300 subscription on that tablet, since they have to have enough left over to pay the content providers. Still, it’s not bad for a free bonus in addition to being able to stream all that content.
Playster’s catalog doesn’t just feature titles nobody’s ever heard of, either. Playster states that has partnered with a number of content providers, including Findaway, Harlequin, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. The press release notes:
Playster includes tens of thousands of classic and current titles. From books (American Sniper by Chris Kyle, God: A Story of Revelation by Deepak Chopra, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson), audio books (George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones,” “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho) video games (“Duke Nukem 3D,” “Men of War”) more than 15 million songs from a variety of artists, (Pitbull, The Glitch Mob) and TV Shows and Movies (Dave Grohl’s “Sound City,” “Howl” starring James Franco and Jon Hamm) .
Playster has been in beta for a while, as it lined up deals with various content providers. Publishers Weekly reported on its making a deal for backlist titles with HarperCollins back in March. Nate reported on it picking up Harlequin and Simon & Schuster in April, and getting 50,000 audiobook titles from Findaway in June. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to browse its catalog without signing up, so I don’t have any way to tell how representative of the whole the titles it mentions are.
If Playster does hope to compete with all the individual services that offer only video, audio, book, or game content, it needs to have a compelling selection of such content available in each of those areas. Maybe it doesn’t have the best selection possible (and certainly that won’t be possible in the video area, where services tend to have more exclusive access, at least to current titles), but it has to have enough to make it worthy of consideration.
In some respects, that content has been a problem for Playster even before Playster became available to the public. It seems to be a favorite trick of scammers to post an affiliate link to sign up for the service along with a claim that Playster offers access to some particular in-demand title. This upsets some authors, who never gave permission for Playster to host those titles—and it further upsets potential customers, who sign up only to find those works are not actually available after all.
But this isn’t really Playster’s fault—it’s just that it set up its affiliate program in such a way that scammers could take advantage of it. It has since updated its site to warn people who follow such links that the linker may have made inaccurate claims about what content they offer. And Playster has done a pretty good job of reaching out to those authors and potential customers to explain what’s going on and clear it up as best it can, including posting to the threads on Kindle Boards and Trust Pilot where it came under discussion.
At any rate, subscription services live and die on how good their content offerings are, but apart from Playster, most such services have restricted themselves to just one medium. (With the possible exception of Google, whose Google Play Music subscription also confers access to YouTube Red.) And most such services are around the $10 per month range.
So, if you’re going to offer a subscription to everything and charge $25 a month for it, you’d better have all the everything you can get. People can subscribe inexpensively to just one kind of content (music and books are $10 per month each, movies are $4 per month, and games are $5 per month), but the whole point of such a service is to try to be a one-stop shop. And to be a good enough one-stop shop that people are willing to pay the whole amount, you can’t skimp on any medium. This could be especially tricky where video content is concerned, given that many people habitually subscribe to multiple video on demand services just because that’s where their favorite shows are. It could likewise be tricky where books are concerned, given a number of subscription services (most notably Amazon) require exclusivity for their suppliers, too.
It would be easier to know what to think about this service if I could actually browse and search its catalog and see if it had anything I wanted to read, watch, listen to, or play. It’s hard to know how much value it’ll offer consumers when I can’t judge that for myself. Still, I hope it’ll do well. It will be interesting to see how an all-you-can-eat model will play out when multiple different media are bundled into the plan.