Publishers Pivoting To Live-Service Games Have Most Devs Worried

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A newly published survey shows that most game developers aren’t too sure about live-service video games—like Destiny 2 and Suicide Squad—representing a sustainable future for the industry, and think the return of paid DLC might be a better option instead.

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The Game Developer Collective is a panel of over 600 game devs created by Game Developer, Omdia, and GDC. These devs were interviewed earlier this year about live-service games. For purposes of the survey, live-service games are defined as online titles that feature frequent updates and in-app purchases. When asked about these kinds of always-online forever games, most developers didn’t have positive opinions.

As reported by Game Developer, 39 percent of surveyed devs had “mild worries” over current live-service business models. Another 31 percent said they were “very” concerned. Meanwhile, a combined 29 percent were unsure or had no fears.

When it comes to how live-service games impact the industry, 45 percent view these online games negatively, while 44 percent have a more mixed view. Overall, that’s not a ringing endorsement of our live-service future from the people being asked by publishers to develop these expensive, time-consuming projects.

Devs say live-service games are hard to support

According to the study, the major concern among developers is sustainability. 63 percent of devs are worried that players will eventually lose interest. 62 percent also admitted they were afraid that other big games would steal away their players. Also revealed in the survey: 57 percent said it will be difficult to hold players’ interest long term.

Regardless of how a big online game loses players, the end result is rarely good for those involved. A live-service game failing and shutting down can lead to layoffs and studio closures. And with only so many players in the world willing to spend the time and money on these games, it seems some devs are worried that the endless war for players’ time and dollars will get worse as more publishers embrace the live-service model.

Interestingly, 30 percent of devs said that their studios were once again exploring paid DLC, a type of post-release content that has become less common during the rise of live-service games. Even more interesting is that 76 percent of devs were looking at putting games behind an upfront payment instead of going free-to-play.

Remember that what developers want to do and how they feel aren’t important to greedy publishers and execs who seem to be pushing full steam ahead on live-service games, as a survey in February revealed. That survey showed that over 500 studios were apparently working on live-service online video games. While some questioned that study’s criteria, the reality is that publishers have made it clear that the live-service model is here to stay, even if this new survey shows that developers aren’t sure how sustainable this pivot to forever games will be in the end.

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