I want you to imagine a scenario really quickly. Don’t worry, there’s a point to this. Just stick with me.
You’re a little kid again. Or a teenager. Or however old you were when you played your first video game. Whatever the age, imagine that you’re there again. Now, imagine that someone told you that one day, the video game that your parents just spent $50 dollars on will not only be unfinished, but also ask you to spend even more money to get stuff in the game itself. How do you think you’d have reacted back then?
If you said “I’d probably think that was cool”, then congratulations! There’s something seriously wrong with you and you probably need therapy!
You’ve probably heard ‘games as a service’ before. Games like Destiny, Anthem (remember that?), Godfall (remember that?) and Avengers have all been labeled as such. But what does that mean? And why do they often either live almost entirely in controversy or just die within a few years or even months?
Here’s what developers would have you believe about ‘games as a service’. Basically, they release a game, often a multiplayer RPG of some kind, with a roadmap of content to come down the road. The basic intent is to make a game that people will be playing for years to come, gathering with their friends to grind for gear through the occasional new content drop. Like an MMO with the gameplay of a different genre, such as an FPS or an action beat ’em up.
What it actually means is “We’re gonna release an unfinished game and slowly patch it to the point where it actually works while squeezing as much out of our audience as possible for our unfinished product.”
See, part of what makes a good MMO good is the sheer amount of content in the game. Take Final Fantasy XIV Online, for example. The base game (Realm Reborn, not 1.0, which doesn’t exist anymore) was packed with content. Dozens of dungeons, a couple of raids, 50 levels worth of quests and gear, and multiple classes that each play differently. You could play Realm Reborn alone for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours. Then, with each subsequent expansion, they added more areas, more dungeons and raids, more classes, more levels, and more gear. An already huge game got even bigger. So, when you spent $60 on it, you knew you would get plenty of bang for your buck.
Buying a game like Destiny or Avengers at launch is basically like buying a promise. The base game only has a few hours of content that isn’t hollow and repetitive and the grind for the gear is long and unsatisfying. But the developers promised that there will be more content later on, so just stick with it! It’ll get good eventually! Ignore the fact that the game is literally unfinished and probably broken!
Except here’s the thing. If the game doesn’t perform, then suddenly that roadmap is put into question. Will we actually get all the content that was promised? Or will the game be scrapped before it can reach that point?
Just look at Anthem. Remember Anthem? Bioware’s newest IP that was supposed to take down Destiny? Yeah, that didn’t happen. The game came out broken, unfinished, and unsatisfying. Thus, the players abandoned ship so fast that you’d think they were on the Titanic. Then, after months of trying to fix it, EA just shrugged and said “Fuck it” and scrapped the game entirely. Bye-bye roadmap.
The same is set to happen to Square Enix’s Avengers game. The player base is already tiny and its getting smaller by the day. Content releases are already late on arrival. At the rate this is going, the game will be dead by the end of the summer. If not sooner.
And guess what? These games are usually entirely online. Meaning that when the players abandon ship and the developers quit, the servers get shut down. And when the servers go down, the game goes down with it. Thus making the game unplayable.
You’re paying $60 or more. For a game that may not even survive the year.
Final Fantasy XI is still playable to this day. Even with Final Fantasy XIV still in its prime. I just figured you should know that.
‘Games as a service’ is a terrible business model that serves more as an excuse for releasing broken, unfinished, cash-grab games than anything else. 9/10 times, they end in complete disaster. They may as well put the words ‘cash grab’ on the front of the box! They lure you in with the promise of more content in the future only to fail on delivering an experience that’s even worth playing in the first place.
Just play Final Fantasy XIV.