Let’s talk about video games as a service. If you’re a fan of video games, you might have heard the term, but for those who don’t know, what these games do is release as a base product — they have a few features and a handful of things to do — but over some time, downloadable content (DLC) packs release to build upon that base product, fleshing out the game in the process. The point of “games as a service” is to provide players with new content in a game for as long as possible, keeping them in that game’s ecosystem instead of moving on to other games. Examples of this game model include Destiny 2, World of Warcraft, Rainbow Six: Siege, Grand Theft Auto 5 Online, and many, many more. In a lot of ways, this can be seen as a scummy practice.
Why not just put out a full, complete product instead of a four-course meal over a year or two? Why do I have to pay more money for something I should have got from the start? Why are companies greedy? Well, companies will always be greedy, but there is a good reason the “games as a service” trend has been adopted so widely in the games industry: games are really hard to make.
Let’s look at Destiny 2, for example; Destiny 2’s base game was pretty alright. The game was developed by Bungie, the people that gave us the Halo series, so needless to say, the game was fun to play. After its release in 2017, Bungie came out with two content packs that were pretty standard and added some new missions, weapons, and cosmetic items. However, Bungie figured out the formula just last year with their latest DLC release, Destiny 2: Forsaken. The DLC wasn’t just some missions and new gear, but felt like a commitment to keep adding new, exciting content, changing up how players interact and enjoy the game. In some ways, this is what World of Warcraft and other Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games have been doing for a while.
The reality of the matter is, game creation has budgets, deadlines, and a lot of corporate politics attached to it. In the case of Destiny 2, which I think has improved a lot since release, Bungie could have never released a perfect game on its base release, but they could get the time and money over a couple of years to improve on their already good product.
Some consumers may not be into the idea of not receiving a full product on release, but it is going to be harder and harder to avoid as video games explore other ways to monetize their products. We’ve already been subject to loot boxes, map packs, and other weird ways companies try to extract money from us. Maybe consumers should let this one ride a little bit and give developers a chance to forge their games into something good over time.
No developer wants to release an unfinished game, and games as a service get rid of a lot of the pressures that developers might deal with during the production process, such as crunch or budget issues.
At the end of the day, players vote with their dollar. Destiny 2 wouldn’t have had the chance to become a better game if players didn’t like playing it. If players don’t like a game with this model, that game dies on the vine. Currently, it’ll be interesting to see what Edmonton’s BioWare does with their “game as a service” Anthem. Now, bad games can potentially become good ones with enough time and money.
Cover screenshot via reddit user u/kristijan1001.