Define “Games as a Live Service”
I need to define what “games as a live service” means: – Offering players the opportunity to buy new content at low prices to continue to enhance or continue the game experience. The “service” part is about whatever you want to buy, including but not limited microtransactions for cosmetics, power-up, in-game advantages or new content in drips and drags or dreaded “loot-boxes” full of randomized loot. The idea? Maximize profit and keep players involved in the game for as long as possible.
Is There a REAL Controversy?
Yes: – We’re not getting good games. There is a rush to make money but what makes a game enthralling, immersive and fun is not important. The story is forgotten. The world building is forgotten. The focus is on trinkets and doodads and gizmos at the expense of actually having something for players to actually sink in to.
A Shifty Industry Shift
This, unfortunately, is something that has been a long time coming. It began with non-games related software and Software as a Service (SAAS). The idea holds true: – it is cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one. A onetime purchase does not generate revenue the way a repeat customer does. Office 365 is the best example. Gone are the days when you pay once for the product. Now you pay annually or lose access to all your files. This is what is happening to games. Proof? Look at any looter shooter from Anthem to Destiny. Only indies these days seem to be focused on shipping a quality product, like Ballistic Interactive and HellSign.
Why this is bad? Four Reasons
No competition, no innovation, nothing new to play
- Players benefit when the games industry is profitable – i.e. developers and publishers are making money and can stay open to make games. More developers mean more competition, which in turn lower and more unique games available out there. Games as a Live Services does not encourage competition. It does not encourage developers to make a quality product. too many recent games have launched need to be fixed afterward. Destiny, The Division, and most looter shooters do not look like their launch day version.
So many games, never enough time
- Everyone has a couple of unfinished games that we bought and never had time to play. Games as a Live Service is about encouraging you to buy more of the same game. Meaning that the already finite amount of time you have to play games is what developers and publishers are fighting for. Money means players investment – via cosmetics, microtransactions, loot boxes and DLC content (paid or otherwise). Players are sucked in and never move on.
If the game is no longer finite, you are never going to finish it and move on to the next game. In an industry that was once structured around playing a game, finishing it, and moving to the next one, Games as a Live Service breaks this model, actively encouraging players to stick with one or a few titles in perpetuity. Players won’t have the time to play, and this will kill franchises and studios over the long term.
The Death of Creativity
- Games as a live service model require games to be made following a template, to make that monetization possible. This limits developer creativity because of the need for the game to be open-ended. Kiss any chance of a good narrative, interesting world, unique characters good-bye. Games will become repetitive, endlessly grindy and ultimately boring. I gave up on Anthem after 20 hours for this reason. Games as a Service prevents anything story driven from being created because stories had an end. Adding side stories via DLC is great, but side stories unfortunately also have an end and take a lot more work than a new map and some cosmetic skins.
The bottom line is that Games as live service is just not good for the consumer because developers are stymied and frustrated by making games that don’t meet creative or artistic ambitions. The consumer gets generic, formulaic games, gets shafted with loot boxes, cosmetic DLCs (anyone remembers Space Marine by THQ? That game had more paid cosmetic DLCs that missions and gameplay modes combined). It means paying for the game, then paying to keep playing the same game, over and over. Welcome to paying a monthly subscription to play the game you already paid full price, as part of a “service.”