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Games die, services are live. What is the big plan?

When mixing AAA and microtransactions don't work, what do you do? Make a microtransaction-driven “service”.

What happens when you are pushed into a corner. When people are mad that the game they bought is no longer playable when your million dollar title is beaten by a free game. Do you strive to make a better title, with no danger of the game being unplayable? Or do you just copy what the free titles are doing and use law loopholes so that don't get in trouble when you kill the game?

Well, publishers are looking at the latter.

A pie chart showing how much of a company's revenue comes from online games and physical titles. — by Lyubomir Atanasov
A pie chart showing how much of a company's revenue comes from online games and physical titles. — by Lyubomir Atanasov

But before I describe what this is about, here is the lead-up to this situation.

The first part is caused due to all the backlash caused by full priced titles having so many extra ways of buying small bits content (DLC, Season Passes, Microtransactions in the game itself). Which is understandable: not only did I buy a tittle with my hard earned money, but the publisher is denying me content(no matter how small) for more of my money. They do say is that games are expensive to make, but as of my previous article, that's a bit of moot point.

The other, bigger point is the practice of killing games and the legal troubles that it brings. What does “killing a game” mean?

Here is what you get when you turn on Darkspore, a full priced game that had its servers shut down. — by Lyubomir Atanasov
Here is what you get when you turn on Darkspore, a full priced game that had its servers shut down. — by Lyubomir Atanasov

Well, in the beginning, that term meant to shut down an MMO. Keeping servers up is expensive, and if no one is playing, then it's only logical. But as time goes on, more and more titles implement serves their life support. From a sort of DRM to MMO style gameplay or just in-game “mini buy” stores. Well, you just shut down the servers and say “Thank you for your support”, right? Well here comes the problem. Outside of gamer outrage, games are products, it's against the law for developer/publisher to make the already bought products obsolete. Now, before it was not a problem since gaming was in a sort of legal gray zone. But as time goes on, more and more counties recognize that games, no matter if they are online only or not, are products. Even in the US, there is a law in the works making abandoned titles and IP's being legal to pirate and/or run on private servers.

So what is a publisher to do? Stop using “online only” tactics? Make a long-term plan? Or just plan around the whole situation, without losing the extra revenue stuff?

Ubisoft's chart, showing how "live games" make more money than normal games by 39% — by Lyubomir Atanasov
Ubisoft's chart, showing how "live games" make more money than normal games by 39% — by Lyubomir Atanasov

Recently representatives of some kind from both EA and Ubisoft have reported how the companies are looking focusing on making more “live services”. This comes after the income reports show that overall microtransactions bring more revenue then overall game sales. Ubisoft even had presentation showing a very confusing chart(pictured here),

There is so confusing things about this, that people question if who ever made, even know anything about the game industry. — by Lyubomir Atanasov
There is so confusing things about this, that people question if who ever made, even know anything about the game industry. — by Lyubomir Atanasov

showing the possible focus of the company going forward. From what people have can gather, expect more online only games in the vain of Fortnite: Battle Royale, CS: GO, and games similar to what the mobile market has. And of course, there is the title: “Live Services”. Basically, a marketing term that has the focus on steering away from the legal dispute of “games are products”, and giving the publisher an out for all the negatives pointed above, mostly the “killing of the game” one.

So what does this mean? Are single player games dead? Will titles like Assassins Creed, FIFA, Madden, the upcoming Anthem and FarCry, be reduced to mobile clicker games?

List of EA's current "Live service" titles, expect more titles to be like these. — by Lyubomir Atanasov
List of EA's current "Live service" titles, expect more titles to be like these. — by Lyubomir Atanasov

Well not really. If I had to make a prediction, this is what might happen. Major publishers will try to make popular titles they have into these “live services”, there will be a vocal outrage since this titles will be hallowed shells of what people loved, and the publisher will resign to come up with a new trick to gather revenue.

Why do I think that? Because similar things have happened again and again in the past.

Before this, there where loot boxes, before that where mobile companion apps, before that there was the anti-piracy(and buyer punishing) push for DRM's and so on and on. And all ended the same: people outcried, ignored or found ways around them. Resulting in the search for a new, might as well call it what it is, gimmick.

And even still, there are plenty of other companies and indies that don't share this viewpoint. So there are no worries that this will become the norm, only that it will affect some of gaming's bigger titles.