Turns out Even Game Developers Are Concerned About the Live Service Model

In Short
  • While you would expect live service titles to be popular in the video game industry, that's not entirely true.
  • Game Developer conducted a recent survey of 600 developers and found that over 70% of them are not confident in the live service model.
  • The primary reason behind this seems to be players slowly losing interest in live service games and developers fearing the competition will beat them.

Look, I will start by telling you that I’m someone who absolutely loves single-player games. Having said that, I am no stranger to live service titles either. Having sunk in over 3,000 hours in Rainbow Six Siege, along with a healthy amount of time with Helldivers 2 (review), I know what this model brings to the table. While I’m not the biggest fan, I understand that developers feed this machine to keep the profits churning. But as it turns out, there’s trouble in paradise.

A recent survey conducted by Game Developer took 600 different devs and asked them questions about monetization in video games. And what do you know? Out of all the devs surveyed, over 70% believe that live service games aren’t sustainable and could fall apart. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Even Shorter Attention Spans?

Of the 70% of devs who believe live service is not sustainable, 31% were very concerned, while 39% were somewhat concerned. To dive deeper, the survey also asked why they felt what they did. Out of all the reasons you’d think live service games failing, players losing interest wouldn’t be one of them. As it turns out, it is.

Leading Reason Live Service
Image Courtesy: Game Developer

Over 63% of game developers believe that losing interest from players will drive this decline. Furthermore, competition from other live service games was a runner-up reason, with a combined strength of 62%.

However, what’s even more interesting is that out of the developers surveyed, over 45% of them view live-service games negatively. To be very honest, that’s not surprising. It’s disappointing to invest so much into a single project only for it to die out months later.

We recently saw this happen in practice when Fntastic, the studio behind The Day Before, shut down just four days after the game’s launch.

DLC for the Win?

Remember when live service games were rare and developers took our money using DLCs? Yeah, me neither. Nonetheless, there appears to be rising interest as 30% of survey users said they were exploring the DLC route, and over 76% wanted an upfront payment.

However, despite some game developers not believing in the live service model, this is just a small sample. After all, companies like WB Games are still actively focusing on live service titles. Their focus will be on all their main IPs, including Mortal Kombat, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, and more.

While not fully confirmed, Remedy’s upcoming co-op game Condor might also have live-service elements in the form of skins and other content. However, only time will tell if the studio goes this way.

The Future Sounds Murky

As mentioned above, the survey hosts only a handful of developers. Nonetheless, this might point towards a bigger problem: reduced faith in live service games. While this won’t likely affect big players like Apex Legends, R6 Siege, and even Helldivers, indie or upcoming developers might be in trouble.

Even though I mostly stick to linear adventures, I do feel there’s a space for a live service model to keep things interesting. It will be interesting to see how this situation develops. For now, the future of live service games appears a bit murky to me.

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