Tobold's Blog
Monday, July 01, 2024
Deep discount and live service

I wrote a post about the Steam summer sale deep discounts. Not on the featured deep discount page, but also heavily discounted is Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. Which, nominally, is a triple A live service game, released only 4 months back, and now available for 21 bucks instead of 70 (or 30 instead of 100 for the digital deluxe edition). Paul Tassi at Forbes argues that this might be a good deal. Besides this not really being my favorite genre, I'm still skeptical, based on my experience with MMOs.

The problem with failing Live Service games, like with failing MMOs, is not that you can't have fun with them; it is that the fun is unlikely to last. The "live service" part means that fresh content is added to the game in regular intervals. On release, some of that added content is already produced, and sometimes even announced. For Suicide Squad, the announced first 4 seasons will most probably be delivered. Beyond that is a simple economic calculation: How much does it cost to produce the next 4 seasons of live service content, and how much money is that content likely to bring in? And with player counts being rather low, even with a deep discount spike, I don't think that economic calculation will come out positive.

Like for failing MMOs, there is a possibility for the game to go free-to-play. Which might prolong its longevity, but still be an argument against paying for it now. The other looming possibility is that sometimes next year there will be an announcement of the game shutting down. This is really not the kind of game where you can buy it at a steep discount during a Steam sale and put it in your Steam library to play later. There might very well not be a "later". If you think you can $21 worth of fun out of the game *now*, go ahead. But the end of the party is already visible, this isn't one for the ages.

This touches on an interesting point concerning expectations. I'm increasingly doubtful about the whole "forever game" concept that gained so much traction among MMO players a decade or so ago. While it's true that many MMOs carry on seemingly indefinitely, providing the same gameplay to a core of loyal players, the indication from more recent games is that they follow a pattern much closer to traditional game releases, with huge sales at launch, a lot of people playing for a while, then most of those players moving on to the next game.

There's always the chance with a Live Service game that some of those players can be persuaded to return, but as time goes on, the same players will have been through the same process with more and more games, so the chances of anyone being lured back to a specific title will be diluted. Also, with players only sticking with a agame for a month or two, any residual afection or loyalty to that game is likely to be much weaker. It seems as though the more Live Service games there are, the less magnetic the attraction of any of them is likely to be.

ON that basis, it seems perfectly reasonable to look at all Live Service games as though they were traditional, standalone releases. If you'd be happy to pay $70 for an offline game that you'd play for a month then never play again, it makes sense to do the same with a Live Service game. And if the game is less than half price in a sale, the logic is even stronger.
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