Video games are transformed, like all modes of consuming content. And video gaming as a service is born—an advantage for both the user and the company. We will tell you what video gaming as a service is and review its history and the best examples.
The traditional game is dead; long live the popular game. Okay, we may have gone a bit overboard with the statement, but it is clear that large individual companies tend to bet on something prevailing: video gaming as a service.
And it is that a video game costs a lot of money to develop, and we were entering a loop of releases of great annual productions of the same saga that was unsustainable. For this reason, some have removed “video gaming as a service” that keeps the video game alive for longer.
It has been coined for a few years and has now “exploded,” but first of all, to go down in “history,” let’s see what games as a service is.
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What is a game as a service?
It is a video game that is launched at a given time with a specific base content and that, as the weeks or months pass, the developer company updates with new content so that the community continues to play.
There are different business models for doing this, such as season passes, microtransactions with games, free content, or any way to extend the experience. That means the user does not leave their games to buy another or to get a sequel. Still, you can continue to enjoy the game you already know and like. Now, with that said, we are going with the “death” of the traditional competition for many large companies and the birth of the game as a service.
Why are you cutting my game, Ubisoft?
Turning the video gaming business into a service is not something that is done overnight. We could say that we have been with this issue for ten years. And it is that, until 2008, games were perceived as something “packed and closed.” A game had a beginning and an end, and everything that was released that would expand the experience of that game, was launched physically, independently. And (although it depended on the original game itself) was called “expansion” because it gave many more hours of play.
Electronic Arts was a visionary with The Sims, a game as a service almost manual, with a base release expanding through expansions dependent on that original release. Still, other companies, such as Westwood, Blizzard, or Microsoft, also released extensions of their games. It was “normal” and accepted, but in 2008 Street Fighter IV arrived. And shortly after, Ubisoft with its Assassin’s Creed II and Prince of Persia.
They were the first games to offer additional content via digital download, now accepted as DLC. But that didn’t sound good to us at the time. A DLC is not bad, and it extends the experience. And, if the user wants to pay, it offers new content opportunities. However, DLC did not start well in the industry. The Street Fighter IV DLC was content that, as soon discovered, was present in the game but blocked unless we paid. That was to cut the product you were paying for, but the most blatant case was Ubisoft.
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And is that Assassin’s Creed II had a series of blocked chapters that were part of the story’s timeline? You knew that was there when you played it, but you couldn’t access it unless you paid. Something similar, but even more severe, happened with the Prince of Persia. This game arrived incomplete when Ubisoft released a DLC sometime after the launch, telling us the epilogue’s end.
They were, as I say, the first cases and those that marked a term. Even today, with everything that has changed, the industry is still not too popular or well-received by some users.
The season passed, and a controversial hurricane
We could say that 2008 was the start year of the DLC, but something even more controversial came. The games were adding DLC and more DLC, so the companies said something like ” okay. What if we put them together in something called a season pass, with a slight discount? So that whoever wants more content has access through a single payment for all additional content? ”
The idea was undoubtedly good, even an advantage for individual users who would buy all the extra content. And in this way, they could make a single payment. However, during the first years of the season, we saw everything from games that expanded months after launch to content that was noticeably created. After the start of the game (the right thing) to games, they took away ” bits ” to sell little by little during the months (even weeks, sometimes) after launch.
Little by little, the season pass was losing its meaning, at least one of them. Usually, you save € 5 off the final price of all DLC. That is, if the total of the DLC released for a game, purchased individually, came out for € 40. The season pass offered that content, but for € 35. It was a regular thing that ended up standardizing on “in the end, it’s all the DLC in a single payment. But without any other economic advantage.”
Now, without any advantage?
Call of Duty and Battlefield, the ” Trojan horses.”
Two of the sagas that have gotten the most of the season pass have been Call of Duty and Battlefield. Both Activision and Electronic Arts, respectively, “invented” the term game as a service. By launching a base game with the right amount of content that, over the months, was receiving news constantly. A drip of maps (mainly) and other elements lengthened the game’s life.
It was not new, Microsoft also did this with its Halo 3, but it is clear that the two reference sagas in sales are the other two. So we can say that they were the ones that started with the condition of “games as a service.”
That has been maintained over the years and the sagas’ deliveries. And the season pass for Battlefield and Call of Duty is automatically purchased by the users who want to enjoy all the content.
However, there was also a problem here, and that is that the community is fragmented. That is if I am a player looking to enjoy the base game and spend many hours with it. But I do not want to pay for new maps or more content since the one is left over. I will not be able to play with my friends who have bought that additional content, such as new maps.
That is a problem that companies have been solving in different ways. As we say, Microsoft learned from Halo 3 and Halo 5. For example, it did not charge for additional maps so that all users could enjoy the same experience. That also manages to lengthen the experience of a game that came out in 2015. And is still very solvent when finding a match since some players continue to play and are encouraged to do so by not dividing the community.