Edward Park is a third year student with a BsED writings track. EP909767@wcupa.edu
There are few things in the game’s industry that increases the lifespan of one’s game besides a “live service” model. Something of a buzzword that has wormed its way into popular gaming jargon. That alone was probably one of the biggest mistakes ever made by whoever had the naive idea that the industry would be interested in supporting a game for a long period of time with no additional financial incentives.
What does it mean to be a “live service”? To be a live service, one must be constantly supporting one’s game throughout the lifecycle of the game, supplying it with content to keep the public interested in your game. It has been the model of choice for many indie titles with “Shovel Knight”’s original kickstarter maybe being a prime example of it being done right, though you could say that about pretty much everything in relation to “Shovel Knight.” Kickstarter gave birth to the general style of game that is the live service and I believe that is where the term first began. One of the first Triple A game studios to give it a shot was Nintendo with the “Splatoon” series giving content piecemeal throughout the game’s lifespan with no additional cost to the players keeping the player base healthy and growing. After the success of “Splatoon,” Nintendo began to do it with other releases such as the totally underrated “ARMS” fighting game with new fighters, modes and maps. While “ARMS” didn’t do nearly as well as “Splatoon,” the model was set in stone and thus were the first few utterances of the term “live service.”
I think after so many years of seeing the game’s industry, it’s become rather obvious what occurs next. Triple A developers like to believe that they can take existing ideas and slowly twist them into something malicious, dangerous and hilariously pathetically grasping. Soon, pretty much every developer and publisher wanted a live service due to its growing popularity, and thus began the usage of a phrase that not even the oceans could provide enough salt to qualify, “We will be supporting these games for years to come!” Such a phrase was heard from pretty much anyone who had a game with something after its release, and so the phrase slowly began to lose its meaning.
What soon began to happen was people were beginning to sour to the term due to how Triple A developers were completely fucking with it. What used to be nice add-ons to games that were already done then turned into the equivalent of a car being taken apart and sold the engine first, and slowly offering everything else while you were expected to drive it. So what you then had was a car that could barely run, if at all at first, and then slowly building it into a game that people were interested in. What then occurs is what everyone should goddamn expect from a game that is barely finished. People would get aggravated at the game for having so little and then the cascade of negative reviews, refunds and potential lawsuits would be endured by both the developer and the publisher further tarnishing the term.
One of the very first to raise alarm bells about the abuse of live services was “Fallout 76” whose launch was so bad and riddled with bugs that Bethesda was subsequently sued for false advertising, among other products that came along with the game itself. Tod Howard the coward then said in an interview that not only did they expect the negative press regarding the game saying that the game was, “not a high metacritic game”, a bone-chilling reminder that they expecting the shitty press at launch and to slowly gain praise for adding things like NPCs (like all the fucking Fallouts had at LAUNCH) and a shit battle royale mode. Also, in that interview, Todd Howard pretty much admitted to the faces of everyone that he was annoyed that people were still playing games like Skyrim and that they didn’t have many other ways to charge people money for a product that is a decade old.
Some may question why I am doing a piece on this now. Afterall, this has been going on for a long time, and people have been talking about this for a long time. The main reason can be found in recent news. Anthem, Bioware’s attempt at a live service, was recently announced that all production on their game was going to be wasted. They broke the news of the game’s death ending a cycle of misery and destruction from the higher-ups at Bioware and EA. While it’s a funny story to cover considering the many failures of Anthem as a product, what is truly sad is that what the live service model has done is ruin potential for good ideas by burying it in skeletal concepts with little meat.
Not only that, but Bioware may be in trouble. The people behind Mass Effect and Dragon Age may potentially be on the chopping block due to the failings of the game. While it’s not certain if the studio will be shut down, the MO of the serial killer known as EA has remained consistent and ever encompassing since the very beginning. Recently, Bioware has had an incredibly bad line-up of releases in the past few years with Mass Effect Andromeda and now Anthem both of which were flops. Such a prolific studio with so much history and potential now may be killed for following a trend poorly.
And thus another fantastic concept was ruined by the Triple A.