Live Services : The Future of Video Games

What and Where

Within the last decade, the face of the games industry has changed and shifted in a multitude of ways. The current state of the industry is inundated with forms of interaction, monetization, and play that were either entirely unavailable a decade ago, or at least not as widely used. A big shift games have taken is the move to the live service format.

More often than not they’re multiplayer games. Some of the more early examples of these games are massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft. In recent years the presence of live service games has increased. Popular games like Fortnite and Apex Legends were created intended to be live services, with series like Call of Duty also adopting the format. 

All Around Benefits?

The shift has a variety of effects on player bases. A benefit to live services is the way that games constantly evolve. This not only entails keeping games interesting, but allows for developers to react to player feedback. As part of this interaction, communities form around these games on websites like Reddit or other forum sites. This also helps sustain a game’s lifespan, making it easier for players to actually play the game. For the companies that create these games there are clear benefits.

The live service model allows for the continued monetization similar to mobile games. With every update to a game, opportunities to add new items for loot boxes. Games also employ a system similar to the subscription system seen on older games, or premium subscription services offered by YouTube or Hulu. The battle pass system usually gives players access to specific items for a set price while also allowing companies to encourage purchasing. 

Who Owns What?

An aspect of the move to live services is the debate between physical and digital ownership. While not entirely as a result of live services, games have become widely available digitally. Physical discs are not really necessary anymore. The proliferation of digital copies of games makes the ownership of a game copy more difficult to define. The three primary factors in games ownership are the player, the platform, and the developer. This triad of ownership also affects live services. While players pay for items and games, the developers can decide when to pull support from a game, while the platform could move on to a new version or halt support all together. Regardless of the challenge of ownership, live services will definitely be a part of the future of the games industry.