Video games are transformed, like all modes of consuming content. And the video games as a service is born—an advantage for both the user and the company. We tell you what video games as a service is, we 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 individual large companies tend to bet on something prevailing: the video games as a service.
And it is that a video game is something that 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 chosen to remove “video games as a service” that keeps the video game alive for longer.
It is something that has coined for a few years, and that, now, has “exploded,” but first of all, and to go down in “history,” let’s see what, specifically, games as a service is.
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What is a game as a service?
It is a video game that 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 when it comes to 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 game business into service is not something that done overnight. We could say that we have been with this issue for ten years. And it is that, until 2008, games 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, which 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 the opportunity for new content. 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 for which you were paying, 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 timeline of the story itself. You knew that was there when you played it, but you couldn’t access it unless you paid, of course. Something similar, but even more severe, happened with Prince of Persia. This game arrived incomplete when, sometime after the launch, Ubisoft released a DLC that told us the epilogue’s end.
They were, as I say, of the first cases, and those that marked a term. That, even today with everything that has changed the industry, is still not too popular or well-received by some users.
The season pass, 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 a good one, even an advantage for individual users who were going to buy all the extra content. And, in this way, they could make a single payment. However, during the first years of the season passes, we saw everything from games that expanded months after launch with content that noticeably created. After the start of the game (the right thing) to games at that, they took away ” bits ” to sell little by little the months (even weeks, sometimes) after launch.
Little by little, the season pass was losing its meaning, at least one of them. Usually, you saved € 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 that lengthened the life of the game.
It was not new, Microsoft also did this with its Halo 3, but it is clear that the two reference sagas in terms of sales are the other two. So we can say that they were the ones that started with the condition of “game as a service.”
That has maintained over the years and the deliveries of each of the sagas. And the season pass of Battlefield and Call of Duty automatically purchased by the users of each one who wanted 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 that 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 it comes to finding a match. Since there are players who continue to play and are encouraged to do so by not dividing the community.