This Week Exposes The Problems of Games as a Service

This Week Exposes The Problems of Games as a Service

Much has already been discussed this past week about the closing of Visceral Games studio, and EA’s apparent attempts to move Visceral’s single player Star Wars project to a more “Games as a Service” friendly title. In fact for the last year, Games as a Service (or unfortunately acronym-ed Gaas) has been the major buzz floating around the business circles in the games industry.

The concept is pretty simple, rather than having a user play/beat your game once and putting it down indefinitely, give them reasons to keep coming back with new modes, content, ect. Then use micro-transactions, loot boxes, or DLC to help subsidize the costs of development and publishing. Additionally by keeping a user engaged, you can prevent them from trading the game in, thus reducing the supply of used games, hopefully, to the point that late adopters will simply pick up a new copy when the time comes.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with GaaS, and in fact it has been effectively used to create some of the most memorable and enduring experiences of the decade. Titles like GTA Online, Destiny, Dota 2, all employ some aspect of GaaS, and the industry is better off for these new ideas and titles. Additionally the undeniable fact remains that games are expensive to make, with $60 often being too low a price point to break even. The problem with Gaas, however can be summed up in one simple phrase, one that you’ve no doubt heard, and possibly said, time and time again.

“There are too many good games out right now.”

This week alone sees the release of Super Mario Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Wolfenstein 2.

But not only are there too many good games, there too many good movies, good books, good manga, good YouTube channels, and binge worthy shows to watch in a single lifetime. We live in an era where we actually have more content we’re interested in than we do time. I loved Breaking Bad, but I haven’t made time for Better Call Saul. Why? Because I would rather spend the limited free time I have doing something else.

And therein lies the danger of the sirens song of Gaas, in an age when we have more to entertain us than ever before, can we really be expected to be satisfied with a new hoard mode?

It is entirely possible, even probable, this new mode of monetizing games will make a few companies rich but I am skeptical it will be enough to revolutionize the industry. For each player that transitions to a GaaS title, that is one less user other titles can hope to lure in, eventually cannibalizing sales within a single publisher, after all you can’t play Battlefront and Fifa at the same time.