With Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League releasing, yet another live service game has hit the market. While they are supposedly the bane of proper video game players everywhere, their popularity tells a different story: and studios have caught on. According to a report by Griffin Gaming Partners, 95% of studios are working on a live service game. Ouch.
What is live service exactly? The easiest way to explain it is as a game that exploits players through a continuing revenue model. Instead of just shipping a full game with all the bells and whistles, you’re given a backbone experience that is added onto and even changed as time goes on. All this with the aim of selling the players on micro (or even macro) transactions.
Games as a service isn’t inherently bad–in fact, I’ve always been a proponent of game developers getting paid well, and that means people have to spend money for the games. However, I’m also a proponent of owning the games you play–and games as a service effectively does away with that.
If a game that’s following a live service model dies, the game is usually lost to the ether, only living on in memories, Twitch clips and YouTube let’s plays. While that’s better than nothing, it’s sad that we’re losing this content as time rolls on.
These data were collected by Griffin Gaming Partners who surveyed 537 gaming studios around the world. The definition for live service in the study was a little looser than I laid out, however, with their criteria being games that have a regular update schedule for their game.
To quote the survey: "Multi-year game development forms production processes and pipelines that are intended to deliver a few key milestones in what is essentially a waterfall process. Production in live services, however, is a constant state of planning & adjusting game parameters to enhance player experience while designing and deploying new features to add new player value.”
The report also stated that companies employing live service are looking for faster updates:
"Across the industry, live service teams reported their ideal production schedules as weekly to biweekly for live ops cadences and biweekly to monthly for game content updates. In the context of game development, which typically spans multiple years, live service production schedules are moving at breakneck speed."