With every season of Fortnite, with every patch to Anthem, and with every new game announcement, Live Service Games are constantly in the public eye. However, they’re also common targets for malcontents in the gaming industry. Whether it’s fans frustrated with Apex Legends’ battle pass or journalists sick of dealing with “free-to-play” games, we’re always quick to beat on the Live Service Game horse like it was ready to head to the Glue Factory three years ago.
However, Live Service Games exist for a reason. While we’re all sick of the line that “games are expensive” to make, it is a fact of the industry right now. Games are expensive, because we expect so much of them. We also don’t expect to pay a lot either, with people griping over costs that hit above $65 USD. Which doesn’t leave game publishers and developers with a lot of revenue, and of course, companies need money to keep going.
Which brings us to the “Games as a Service” model that’s become so popular in the last decade. Many gamers hate the idea of live service games because of the constant micro-transactions. With story pack DLC, fans feel cheated, that they’re buying a game that isn’t finished. That companies can release broken games and fix them over time, and players will eventually be happy about it.
The criticisms of Live Service Games have been well argued and well documented. I, myself, have made several arguments against them. Just a few days back, I wrote about how being free-to-play won’t fix what’s broken with Anthem. And I stand by that.
However, just because a system is deeply flawed doesn’t mean we’re so ready to get rid of it. After all, we love story pack DLC because they give us more of a thing we love. And as fans, that’s something we always want and there will always be a market for. It’s why people are so unsatisfied with game series, tv shows, movies, and comics that end too soon. It’s why we replay, re-read, and re-watch our favorite things. We don’t want to give up on the things we adore.
And getting rid of Live Service Games means we get rid of post-launch story DLC. It means we get rid of the chance for games to become better over time. Without the Live Service model, we wouldn’t have ever seen Destiny, The Elder Scrolls Online, or Final Fantasy XIV turn their disappointing launches around.
While, yes, getting self-contained games that are playable at launch may mean higher prices and longer development windows, the hardest sell will be going back to the days where games ended. And that was it. Going back to the old way of doing things won’t make us any happier.
We’ll just end up paying for the death of the Live Service model in other ways. None of which will be preferable to what we have, unless we come up with a new paradigm.