“Games as a service” is a term that has gotten more traction over the past few months. Look at some of the most popular games on the market; Overwatch, Grand Theft Auto Online, Destiny 2, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Each of these games has been out for a while and are constantly being updated with new content and events (some are free, others are paid depending on the game) that add to the longevity of the game. It seems like a win-win situation. Gamers are happy and enjoying the games they paid $60 for, while developers are rejoicing that their games are reaching record numbers. Unfortunately, I don’t think that “Games as a service” are consumer friendly. In fact, when the lights go out, your favorite game is essentially useless. What does this mean for the future of the industry? Let’s dive in.
Another enthusiast, Brett Medlock wrote about how younger generations won’t be able to revisit their favorite video games as they get older because many modern games focus on multiplayer.
Once companies have no audience to produce a constant revenue source, there’s no good reason for a developer/publisher to keep the servers on. So then it’s lights out forever. Unless developers can somehow figure out a workaround that allows for a single-player, offline experience for these games (which, admittedly, would work for a game like The Division). But honestly, how likely is that? Sounds like a lot of work, resources, and money with little to no payoff.
Once the servers shut down on a variety of games, they are unplayable. When Destiny launched in 2014, it became a game that my friends and I spent hours playing. We consumed so much Destiny and would often talk about it even when not playing it. After being tired of the end-game content, we all stopped playing. Within Destiny’s lifecycle, Bungie released a few expansions; The Dark Below, House of Wolves, The Taken King, and Rise of Iron. These expansions added new weapons, maps, and story, while Bungie also supported the game through raids and iron banner competitive events. I purchased all of these expansions and enjoyed them. Then Destiny 2 happened. Three years later, Destiny became a thing of the past, something that I just left behind entirely.
I guess you can say that things like this happen when a sequel is released. That’s something I understand. I rarely play other Halo games now that Halo 5 is out. The same happens every year when a new Call of Duty is released. Now that I have Call of Duty: World War 2, I could honestly care less about Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It’s a sad reality with sequel culture but “Games as a service” are completely different beasts. Unless they’re like Overwatch, the chances are that you will spend a bit of money on content. I’m not talking about microtransactions (I’ve never purchased a single one. and I don’t plan to), but downloadable content.
In the case of Destiny, I purchased the expansions to be on the same page with the community. Nothing is worse in an online-focused game than to fall behind. I’m an avid Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege player. Each year, I’ve purchased the yearly pack so I can gain access to all of the operators as they’re released. Sure, you can unlock them by playing the game, but that can take weeks, and by then, most of the community is already using and mastering the new operators. There’s a meta game within these “Games as a Service,” and that’s called keeping up with expansions.
When a sequel comes out, the countless hours and tons of money you spent on a “Games as a Service” are nullified. Was all the fun worth it when you realize all the money spent throughout the game’s lifecycle? Expansions start to add up, and you’ll quickly realize that the game actually cost a few hundred dollars, instead of the $60 price tag. The chances are that your crew transfers over to the new game and forget about the old one. The servers will eventually close, and then it’s the end of an era.
“Games as a Service” makes me hesitant about the future. They’ve made me more conscious about the games I’m purchasing, playing, and spending my time with. I’m conflicted with “wasting” a lot of my hard earned money on games that will no longer be around after a while. I would even suggest trading games in but let’s be honest, as games get out of date, trade in value is next to nothing. When The Taken King expansion cgame out for Destiny, trading in the base game would only get you a measly 25 cents at Gamestop.
There’s only one company that knows how to make “Games as a Service” work, and that’s Blizzard. Look at World Of Warcraft, arguably one of the most popular video games ever made. Since its 2004 launch, World Of Warcraft constantly has players questing in Azeroth. 14 years later, the game has seen a multitude of expansions.
- The Burning Crusade
- Wrath Of The Lich King
- Mists of Pandaria
- Warlords of Draenor
What’s more, is that there is a 7th expansion called Battle For Azeroth launching later this year. It’s crazy (and fantastic) to see Blizzard still supporting this game. Each expansion adds more quests, gameplay features, raids, and the level cap always increases. Occasionally, character models are even upgraded, giving the game a look that’s more modern than when it originally launched.
A Redditor documented interesting tidbits said throughout the Rainbow Six Siege Invitationals that took place this weekend. The post detailed how Ubisoft is planning on supporting Rainbow Six Siege for 10 years.
Notable things mentioned during the stream:
- “No sequel is planned. They literally said they were there to stay for 10 years, tho i’m not sure how literally that should be taken.”
- “The active player-count is still growing, 27 million total players. (Might include people who played during free weekends)”
- “8 new operators are coming in Year 3. Goal is still hitting a 100 operators eventually.”
- “Changes coming to the standard edition. You will now start with all 20 legacy (original) operators unlocked.”
- “In the future all weapon attachments will be free and unlocked from the go.”
- “The problem child that is the starter edition will go from 4 free operators to 6.”
- “They are adding new Data-centers in South Africa and South Europe.”
- “Pick and Ban is coming for operators in Pro-league. Each side gets to ban 1 attacker and 1 defender for the whole map.”
- “Pro-league will be 1 team attacking 5 times followed by the other team attacking 5 times.”
- “They will be working hard on improving the Pro-league in general. They are first of all reworking the observation tool.”
- “Some maps will be renovated and rebalanced. Bomb-mode will be the focus for map design. (Extremely good in my opinion.)”
- “The map “Yacht” is coming back to casual.”
- “The Map “Hereford” will be the first map to be reworked.”
- “Every season (at least that is the goal. Changes will ship when ready) a map will receive a buff. Small changes that should help improve the meta on the map, mostly through improving specific objectives to make more bomb-sights viable.”
- “First map to receive a buff is “Clubhouse”. Bar-room and Top floor will both be buffed. They are aiming for season 2 as the goal for completion.”
- “Esports is there to stay.”
- “Lan-competitions will happen. Dreamhack got name dropped but didn’t catch the context.””
Ubisoft is the perfect example of a company taking a “Games as a Service” on consoles and making it work. My trepidation with this trend is that my money will be wasted when a sequel comes out. If Bungie and Activision were smart, they would take the Ubisoft and Blizzard approach and crank out fewer sequels. If Destiny 2 took queues from World of Warcraft, we could live in a world where there wouldn’t be a Destiny 3, but instead countless expansions for Destiny 2 that will stay with players for years. It’s better to spend $60 for the base game and $200 for expansions instead of all of that money, and then starting over from scratch in a sequel. “Games as a Service” should be something that ages with the player and not something we outgrow.
“Games as a Service” is here to stay whether we like it or not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but these games need to be done right. Publishers and developers need to take into consideration how the content they release affects players. The term “vote with your wallet” is more important than ever. Look at what happened to Star Wars Battlefront 2. The loot box and microtransaction fiasco led to the company not selling as many copies of the game as they wanted to. If players take a stand and not purchase these games, publishers will know how the gaming community feels about certain issues.
With Rare’s Sea Of Thieves launching in a little over a month, this is essentially the first big “Game as a Service” for Microsoft. Admittedly, I’m nervous that the community might drop off fairly quickly. I hope that people play Sea Of Thieves for a long time, but you can never tell when it comes to multiplayer video games. Will there be paid expansions or will updates be free like in Overwatch? We have to wait and find out, but I believe that the future of the game will be determined by how Microsoft and Rare handle microtransactions, post-game events, and expansions. The fact that the game will come to Xbox Game Pass also ensures that more people will be able to get their hands on Sea Of Thieves.
“Games as a Service” aren’t terrible. The problem is that they are in their infancy on consoles. Publishers are still working on how to market them to mainstream audiences, and I’m not sure if that’s particularly working. With every expansion, and installment for a franchise, there’s a learning experience for those involved. I’m hoping that Activision, Ubisoft, Blizzard, Microsoft, and EA (with the upcoming Anthem) work on making their games something that will be played for years and not tossed aside after a while. The gamers who play their titles should be treated fairly and if money doesn’t seem to be well spent, why bother playing? The next few years will be a huge stepping stone for “Games as a Service,” and I wonder how long it’ll be before every single company uses this platform. Unfortunately, I think this future will be coming soon, and I don’t think these companies have a plan that will benefit gamers in the long run.