Games As A Service: The Good, The Bad, And The Evergrowing
Games as a service have been a big part of the industry for the past couple of years and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. There are a few different flavors to pick from too. Wanna wield the power of the elements and save the galaxy from evil aliens? Then you’ll find a home in the Tower of Destiny 2. Battle Royales, like Apex Legends, are another genre that use their platforms as constant flow of content.. But not all of these games are great right out of the box. In fact some, like Fallout 76 and Anthem, have gone through a myriad of patches and still are not what they promised/advertised. Are games as a service here to stay? Let’s dive into the pros and cons and see how all the facts stack up.
Games as a service (GaaS) are a category of games that have a semi-steady release of post-launch content.The key word here is “platform”. You may be thinking to yourself, “Games have had post-launch content for years” and you’re right. However unlike Call of Duty map packs, games like Destiny and Fallout 76 create a world you can continuously return to and go on adventures. Think of it as an MMO although it’s nowhere near as expansive. There’s always a co-op element, sometimes player vs player, gear to chase, and some type of end game content that most players strive for.
Much like a coin there are two sides to this discussion. What might be a positive for one person, might be a negative for someone else, so keep that in mind as we go forward. The one positive thing one can say about GaaS is that there is a somewhat-regular post content release cadence. What this means is that in most cases players always have something to do. There’s always loot chase, or high level enemies to kill, or missions to complete. The list goes on and on. While this is great for someone who only plays that particular game or who doesn’t have a lot of other games sitting on their backlog, it can be somewhat daunting for players like me who have a lot of games that still need to be played. This can lead to one thing all gamers hate dealing with: burnout. For example, Destiny 2 is just finishing up a big summer event that I was very interested in. While I enjoyed the time I spent grinding the gear and playing with my clan, the time I had to devote to it prevented me from playing other games. However this one particular point is what all other pros and cons stem from. So a semi-regular flow of content can be good and it can be bad. It gives the player something to always play as long as they have the content update downloaded. In cases where that is the main or only game a player owns/plays it can be a more affordable option. On the opposite side of that there are problems that can arise from constant content that don’t include burnout.
An obvious drawback for some people is the commitment they might feel to play a live service game. They view it as a huge time sink, and honestly it can be. You play it all at your own pace, however, if there are constant updates and events you may find yourself behind everyone else. This requires a big investment of time and effort, especially if you want to see and do everything it had to offer. A GaaS can be a financial investment as well. In a game like Destiny 2 the endgame content typically comes at a cost. Destiny 1 and 2 have had bigger expansions that cost around $30 each. These expansions are more robust experiences that usually have new campaign missions, modes, gear, endgame activities, and more. Some developers like Bungie and Respawn Entertainment try doing Seasons Passes or Annual Passes which can net you a nice chunks of content that are smaller in scale but more spread out. In a BR like Apex Legends the Season Pass nets you new customizations for your character whereas the Annual Pass in Destiny 2 last a few months and introduces a new game mode or mechanic alongside some new gear. While the constant flow can be a good thing, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the content can be a miss. Take the Joker’s Wild DLC for Destiny 2. It added two new modes however the modes felt disjointed from the rest of the game. They had a nice gameplay loop but it was isolated to those two modes, and it didn’t really branch out into the rest of the game. So if you didn’t like that mode and you pre paid for it you were out of luck. This also plays in part to an issue of balancing.
Sometimes balancing a GaaS is hard because you have so many moving parts that have to work together. Destiny struggles with this in it’s player vs player Crucible modes. Weapon balance for these modes are tricky because the developers have to find a why to balance guns in pvp and not completely break them in player versus environment portion of the game.There are other minor problems like server issues. Meaning you could be in the middle of a competitive match and just be kicked off the game for any amount of time. Server issues have been an issue with a handful of these games. Fallout 76 has had numerous occasions where players can’t log in or as soon as they do they get immediately kicked back to the main menu. However there are games that while plagued with these issues at launch, turned things around and are now great experiences. Two examples of this are Ubisoft’s For Honor and Rainbow Six Siege. Again both of these games are much better stability wise then at launch. Stability and balancing are ongoing problems. While they can sour a players experience that’s not the deciding factor on the overall quality of a GaaS
When a live service game does things right it can be some of the most fun you have. When quality content is coming out at a steady pace you and your friends can have an endless supply of adventures. People will always be on and someone will always be doing something. They can be amazing social hubs in that regard. They also break up the monotony of yearly content releases. Instead of getting a sequel every year you have one place to play that's evolving around you. Which is great because the big trend for a while involved AAA companies releasing a yearly sequel or spin off for a franchise. These sequels had a tendency to be of lesser quality or unwanted and led to franchise fatigue. Some companies still do yearly releases. Ubisoft took the criticism and stopped releasing a new Assassin’s Creed every year. But Activision and EA still put a new Call of Duty and new sports games out every year. But when you have a game that’s essentially always on it’s up to you when it’s time to revisit it and when it’s time to take a break.
So are games as a service the best thing ever? It honestly depends on how you interact with games. When working as intended they are a fantastic playground for you and your friends. However they can be buggy unpromised messes. This can lead gamers to lose faith in a franchise and developers. However this is a trend that will be around for a little while. If a game as a service interests you, try it out. You’ll never know what you like until you try it.