Over the past few years the world has seen several incredible games get released into the wild. From the Witcher 3 to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild, it seemed as if each year was riddled with incredible journeys just waiting to be discovered. Yet, despite a robust catalogue, there were a couple outliers whose trials brought the idea of games as a service into the judgmental eye that is the internet. “Games as a service” has a been term that has been thrown around recently, acting as a boogieman of sorts for the gaming community. For example, Shadow of War, Destiny 2, and Star Wars Battlefront 2’s catastrophic post launch care has lent some credence to those who worry about developers making games as a service.
This model for games that generate revenue post launch, basically meansthat the initial 60 dollars that the consumer spends isn’t the end of the money the game produces. In the past the most common form of generating revenue for a game post launch was through DLC or expansions for the base game. However, a more nefarious method of creating revenue takes the form of loot boxes. While these are not necessarily new, what has taken place recently is that games are designed around these loot boxes. Shadow of War, Destiny 2, and Battlefront 2 are the prime examples of this issue. Shadow of War created tiers within the enemies that helped sell loot boxes that promised a minimum amount of a higher tiered enemy. During the main game this was never something I considered, however when attempting the end game grind I could see the appeal of spending some money to get through it. With the end game taking an estimated ten hours to complete, it’s not improbable that the entire portion of the game was designed around pushing these loot boxes. Though the other two games attempted methods that might be even worse.
Battlefront 2 is the poster boy for loot box controversy, the news of its illicit practices even making mainstream news not to mention a petition being started for Disney to take away licensing rights from EA. To summarize EA attempted to force the progressions system, and gameplay altering “cards”, to be run through loot boxes. The public outcry was swift and immediate, and led to people digging even deeper into the games problems. Heroes were locked by default and required in game currency, acquired by loot boxes, to attain; on top of that the amount necessary was nothing short of staggering with 40 hours being the approximate time needed to unlock Vader, just one hero. Destiny 2, not to be outdone, had its own unique problem unfold. The game garnered strong initial reviews from established outlets, though some “independent” reviewers such as Angry Joe dinged them with a less than stellar 6/10. Regardless the game enjoyed launch success with the problems of Destiny 1 fading into memory, however as time went on its cracks began to show. Destiny 2 simplified it’s gameplay in an effort to consolidate and streamline the experience, however it led to a game that feels barren the further you get into it. With levels no longer allowing difficulty settings, and enemy AI dumbed down, players burned through the game quickly. The dlc that was released was met with mediocre reviews and was devoured by the fan base almost immediately, this coupled with the disgust at the Eververse, online store, loot boxes being turned into a grind fest in order to procure more revenue led to the player count falling off a cliff. Bungie further damaged themselves by lying to the player base about the amount of experience earned and it was even reported that they found producing two dlc a year too difficult and thus decided to funnel most of their efforts through the Eververse in order to keep the community engaged. Both of these games severely botched what should have been incredible experiences and even managed to further damage their product with poor and ineffective communication.
The gaming community has good cause to be nervous about games a service with three of the biggest releases of 2017 giving way to lazy development and overreaching greed. However, I believe doomsday bunkers are not yet needed. Overwatch provides a perfect example of how to correctly implement loot boxes, with the ability to earn them naturally at a reasonable rate and nothing but cosmetics being attainable. Sea of Thieves doesn’t even include loot boxes instead allowing the outright purchase of cosmetic items, something many prefer. The Division and Rainbow Six Siege both married paid content with free dlc and quality of life updates. The show of good faith from the developers to the community can be rewarded with renewed interest and player count. The Division had a similar cycle to Destiny 2, its initial launch was extremely successful however problems with the game came to light. Instead of doubling down on bad practices however, Ubisoft invested in the continued improvement of the game and was rewarded with hitting a world-wide player count of 20 million, soon after which they announced a sequel to the game. The benefit of investing in a game beyond the launch is that you have the ability to improve it dramatically, however the developer has to acknowledge their mistakes and be transparent and sincere in their efforts to gain back the community’s favor.
Nobody likes to feel deceived and even fewer like the feeling of others reaching into their wallet. Greedy business practices have always existed and with improvement in technology they are sure to only evolve. However, the games as a service model has nothing naturally wrong with it. Continued support of a game has led to truly incredible paid content, The Witcher 3 for example, and allows the unique opportunity to steer the ship back on course should there be dragons. Unfortunately it can also lead the way to overreaching and negligent practices designed to grab as much money as possible for as little effort as possible. It’s up to the consumer to be informed about the history of the companies providing the games and to accept that passing on a potentially fun game is better than supporting underhanded practices, regardless if they like the company. The Division is a poster child of correcting course and Battlefront 2 seems to be making the correct adjustments as well. Whether or not Destiny 2 sees renewed success depends on the willingness of Bungie to accept their faults and take one on the chin for the sake of their players. Games as a service will most likely be a standard practice for companies going forward, and that’s not a bad thing. Good faith and benevolent support from developers should be rewarded and met with support from gamers. Greedy practices will always survive, one way or another, however they shouldn’t be considered the normal and can be stamped out. If the developers don’t invest time and passion into the game, ask yourself this, is it really worth yours?
Author: Kevin “Otter Pop” Kerr