Love them or hate them, Games as a Service is a mainstay of the industry today. They have evolved into platforms that bring together huge communities of players and generate billions of dollars every year. However, there is another reality that cannot be denied either: its history is full of setbacks and great failures.
By the start of 2023, this sector of the industry has been hit hard, as several games as a service will soon shut down or lose most of their support very soon. Rumbleverse, Knockout City, BABYLON’S FALL, CrossfireX, and Marvel’s Avengers are just a few examples that success is never guaranteed in this market. It doesn’t matter if you have the support of industry giants, a renowned IP, fresh ideas or popular creatives behind the project, there is always a risk of failing and losing a lot along the way.
Years ago there was talk of the possible end of single-player in favor of constantly evolving online experiences. Some studios even promised games that would last a decade thanks to new content and constant improvements, but the reality is very different: that future has not arrived and games as a service face difficulties in an industry that is constantly transforming. What happens with these types of titles? Are they doomed or are they just going through a change that is necessary? Next, we analyze it.
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A constant fight for survival
Industry giants are fiercely competing to create that next sensational title that will command gamers’ attention, time, and money. The task is not easy and only a few have been successful: Fortnite, GTA Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Apex Legends and Genshin Impact are clear examples of the potential of games as a service. However, they are exceptional cases that walk on a huge cemetery of titles that failed along the way.
Games-as-a-service shutdowns are commonplace, but recently there was a catastrophe. The end of at least 11 titles was announced: CRIMESIGHT, CrossfireX, Apex Legends Mobile, Echo VR, Knockout City, Rumbleverse, Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier, BABYLON’S FALL, Deathverse: Let It Die, Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai : A Hero’s Bonds and Echoes of Mana. In addition, it was confirmed that games like Marvel’s Avengers and Back 4 Blood will stop receiving news sooner than many expected. Cancellations were not lacking either, as Electronic Arts abandoned Battlefield Mobile, while Ubisoft turned its back on Project Q, a Battle Arena that was never revealed.
What is happening? Are games as a service going through a crisis? The reality is that its very nature marks the expiration of the titles, but it is clear that the studies look for projects that last for years and generate large profits. However, there is a trend of games crashing in a matter of months and not coming anywhere near financial expectations.
Games as a Service can fail for many reasons. On one hand, companies are clinging to finding that next cash cow. The point is that there is no formula for it and the most obvious is to follow the most popular trends in the market. This is understandable, as the industry is increasingly competitive and production values are through the roof.
The problem is that this creates a saturation that stifles almost any possibility of standing out. It is not enough to follow a few steps, emulate what another studio did or have a renowned franchise to succeed. Rumbleverse and Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier bet on the battle royale path with results that fell short of financial expectations. Konami tried to emulate the Among Us concept with CRIMESIGHT, but failed to even reach 600 players on Steam.
Following trends does not always give good results
BABYLON’S FALL and CrossfireX disappointed for failing in very essential aspects and for being great promises of prestigious studies. Square Enix tried to stretch the Marvel’s Avengers league and the popularity of the IP to the maximum, but had lousy results and millions in losses. Deathverse: Let It Die fell victim to saturation and simply caught the attention of too few gamers. While EA and Ubisoft anticipated a possible failure and decided to cancel their projects.
To this we must add the rejection that the games-as-a-service model itself generates: permanent connectivity, monetization that can be abusive, technical problems, lack of content and dubious quality in some cases. Due to this and other factors, developing a game as a service is a constant fight for survival, since a bad decision can cost years of work and devastate the efforts of developer teams. It can also dampen the enthusiasm of an entire community as their favorite game slowly crumbles or disappears overnight.
What will be the next victim?
The competition and the demands of the market lead executives and managers to bet on this model, where the number of players and profits are essential to keep a project alive. This side of the industry not only takes its toll on players, but also on developers. In order to meet the quality and content quotas, they are subjected to exhaustive development cycles for years that, in the long run, are unsustainable and repetitive in terms of work. There are even cases where even healthy player numbers do not guarantee the success and continuity of the games.
Knockout City hit where others failed and overcame all negative odds with fresh ideas. It managed to gather more than 12 million players, but even then it will partially stop its operations. Velan Studio hinted that the project is simply not sustainable in the long term due to the scale of the company and, above all, its desire to do new things. Knockout City will not end like the other titles mentioned, as its developers will launch a PC edition that will work through private servers.
We have an important announcement about the future of Knockout City.
Season 9 will be our final Season. All servers will be shut down on June 6th. We have more in store, so stay tuned!
Learn more about the upcoming sunset in our latest blog: https://t.co/15hTpzmSyq
— Knockout City (@knockoutcity) February 3, 2023
The closure of all these titles could be considered a warning sign for the market itself and, of course, for gamers, who are not always willing to dive into massive games and free-to-play offers. Perhaps it is a clear sign that the industry must seek a better balance or even new models.
What does the future hold for games as a service?
The games-as-a-service bubble seems to be bursting, but the reality is that its foundation is still solid thanks to giants like Fortnite. Studies forecast that this part of the market will grow much more in the coming years and will have an estimated value of 18.4 MMDD by 2027.
Will your current model be able to hold up until then despite the continued shutdowns? It is a fact that the big companies will continue betting on this type of games that have the opportunity to become platforms. However, it seems that the expectations of executives are getting higher and they only produce titles that live for an ever shorter period. It is not for nothing that developers continually seek a balance and ways to prevent games as a service from being a kind of Russian roulette for studios and users. For now it seems that there is little room to maneuver, especially since there are games that continue to print tickets and set trends.
“They need a change in their model to stop being a Russian roulette for studios and players”
There are some opportunities on the horizon for the model to find new ways. The most striking case is undoubtedly that of PlayStation, which will bring its most important franchises to games as a service. We know that it is also developing new IPs to fully enter this market with at least 10 titles. Hence the recent purchase of Bungie is so important. Although the plans for Destiny had to be adjusted, it is undeniable that the studio has invaluable experience in the sector.
PlayStation’s goal is to retain its single-player quality quotas and bring them to games as a service. Without a doubt, the idea is attractive because the company could expand the horizon and propose something that injects life into the current model. You’ll make it? It’s still too early to tell, but it would be too optimistic to think that he won’t stumble along the way.
On the other hand, games like Skull and Bones, Assassin’s Creed Invictus, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, and Diablo IV will soon be facing the maelstrom of the market. While some seem to be the chronicle of a death foretold, others are likely to stand out thanks to their names. That being said, games as a service still have a future, but it is clear that they need a change in their model to stop being a snake that devours itself.
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