Video Games as a Service

Haven’t you noticed that lately new video games have felt more like a continuous services rather than complete products? When I was playing through Mario Tennis Aces with my friends last Friday, we felt that the local multiplayer felt unfinished. The local multiplayer was missing basic functions that were in previous games like being able to choose who was on each doubles team or being able to select a specific court to play on. Since the game is getting planned updates with new characters, I have to wonder if Camelot/Nintendo plan to update the game’s local multiplayer later in the game’s life or not. Anyways, it’s disappointing that Camelot/Nintendo decided to release Aces in this unfinished state, but I can understand why they did this. It’s because most of the gaming industry has been moving towards games as a service.

What I mean by “games are becoming a service” is that games are moving towards a more continuous update model, like many mobile gatcha games, rather than releasing finished products (i.e. games that don’t receive any DLC). You can see this shift towards a more service model with the fighting game genre and online multiplayer focused games. For example, Street Fighter 5 is still adding new characters and rebalancing the game 2 years after the game was initially released. The same goes for multiplayer shooter games like Overwatch and Splatoon. I can’t think of many game series that haven’t had some kind of post game patch or dlc in the past could years if you exclude indie games.

If I had to guess why games are shifting towards these continuous development models is because game companies want to build communities around these continuously running games. By keeping people engaging with a single game for long periods of time, game companies have a higher chance for inspiring brand loyalty or allowing the game’s name to stick around in the public’s conscious for longer periods of time. This would both give the company more opportunities to get more money from people by releasing new paid content and it form a community around a game. Take Splatoon and its sequel for example, both games run on a continuous content model and Splatoon 2 recently released a dlc, which was pretty well received based on anecdotal evidence.

On one hand, I don’t mind the service model of games because it can give us really cool stuff like Ryu, Cloud and Bayonetta in Super Smash Bros. On the other hand, I dislike the idea of paying for a promise that developers will fix the broken aspects of their games at launch or the promise that they will add more content to the barebones of a game. What I’d like to see from video games in the continuing service model is that they release a game with a solid foundation at launch and then at on cool and weird features afterwords.

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Please take what I say with a grain of salt. The article is based on my own observations over the past couple of years.

With that out of the way, how do you feel about games as a service? Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent to it?