In the past few years, the video game industry has been showing significant signs of interest in the games as a service model. This covers several prominent publishers; Ubisoft for one that has almost shown an obsession with change.
So what is the games as a service model? It is basically a way to monetize through post-release support. There are many forms in this category such as adopting a free-to-play or subscription model.
Without releasing a season pass at the start or the next sequel entirely down the line, revenue for the existing game mostly relies on microtransactions. The players, however, keep on playing because of new content being brought in through timely updates.
The main advantage of treating games as games as a service is in the reduced development cost, while opening arrays for increased profits.
It is only a matter of time but here are five video game franchises that should already adopt games as a service.
If there is one video game franchise that should have adopted the games as a service model a long time back, it is undoubtedly FIFA.
The highly popular and lucrative football simulator has been receiving a yearly release from Electronic Arts (EA) like clockwork. While new entries are generally ripe with excitement and anticipation, there have seldom been prominent factors to distinguish a recent installment from its predecessor.
It mostly comes down to updating uniforms, kits, rosters, and stadiums in accordance with the real-world sport organization. There have definitely been improvements in the visual and gameplay categories, but not enough to warrant an annual purchase for relevancy.
According to chief executive officer Andrew Wilson last year, EA is already considering ditching annual releases for online subscriptions. The notion is partially relatable with the games as a service model but could be much better by making FIFA a one-time purchase instead.
The real benefit in this route is that EA can save millions in development cost by continuously updating the existing product for the next few years. This will also mean a cheaper lifestyle for the players unless they jump into the microtransactions pool or decide to pay for new content, which is perfectly fine.
Call of Duty
While the world has moved on to better prospects, Activision remains steadfast on a quest to squeeze as much juice as possible from the Call of Duty franchise.
The publisher has indeed recognized the potential in a games as a service model but not in the way players were expecting. Instead of free updates, the new Black Ops 4 will charge a ridiculous fee for access to all post-release content. The freedom to choose between premium content, which is staple in season passes, has been taken away under the guise of a live service support.
Activision needs to wake up and cease this insolence. If it really wants to change, the games as a service model dictates that core content should never be locked behind a paywall. Whether they are new modes, maps, or characters, everything should be available for free or through progression. The option to drop real-world money should only be there for cosmetics.
If there is still some confusion, Activision only needs to look at how the new Battlefield V has evolved with its commendable version of a live service model.
There is a stern rule in any industry: if it is not broken, do not attempt to fix it. Blizzard made this mistake with Diablo III by changing several gameplay components that were relished and considered staple in the franchise.
In the months to follow, the developer did quell the situation by giving the much-awaited sequel a much-needed purpose. This, either by accident or design, borrowed elements from a games as a service model to certain degrees.
The adventure mode, which provided bounties and rifts as endgame content, was highly appreciated and made players wonder why it was not there from the start. Unfortunately, by the time Blizzard realized how crucial such an online component is to the franchise, it was too late and all eyes began looking at the next possible sequel with hope.
The good news is that a fourth entry is already in the works. Blizzard should and probably will take into consideration what it has learned so far and incorporate all of that the next time.
New dungeons, raids, locations, cosmetics, story expansions, and more can all be added through free updates to give players a reason to keep on playing. There is no need to lock away content for the next installment. This is exactly what a games as a service model stands for.
The Elder Scrolls
There are few open-world franchises that offer the amount of lore and replay value as The Elder Scrolls. This is probably why the gap between each installment has only grown considerably over the years. It is simply too cumbersome and challenging for Bethesda Softworks to pump out sequels sooner. Hence, come the advantages of a games as a service model.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has lasted around eight years so far and is still going strong. The base offering, combined with expansion packs, offer content worth hundreds of hours. Not to mention the highly impressive modding potential that has kept the critically acclaimed installment from showing its age.
It is now time to better this already stellar single-player experience by including an online component. Not saying that the developer should go the massively multiplayer routine but post-release content through free updates would relinquish monotony for those who have a tendency to complete their purchases in a few sittings.
Everything from new armor sets to weapons, new dungeons to bosses, new locations to adventures, can all be bundled efficiently with a games as a service model. Those who are not interested in purchasing expansion packs will still find a reason to continue playing since there would be new events and content coming in for free.
There have been so many entries in the Pokemon franchise that they are divided between eight whole generations. It goes without saying that the hunger for new installments has only grown over the years, making it a challenge for Nintendo to keep coming up with new monsters and story chapters.
In that light, it is quite surprising that no one has considered adopting the games as a service model. Why work on entirely new installments just for the sake of introducing new Pokemon critters when the same can be done through updates in an existing product?
Such would not only prove beneficial for the developer because it gets to save millions in development cost, but also the consumers because they keep getting their fill for years to come.
The recent releases, particularly the augmented reality take with Pokemon Go, have already made it clear that the aspect of earning from a Pokemon installment is not difficult at all. The only challenge is going to be relevancy and giving players a reason to continue playing. Pokemon Go, for example, saw a huge dip in activity once the trending graph faltered.