Aw sh*t, here we go again: it’s time for the classic contrarian video game website opinion to stoke comments and clicks. Most people are mad about Sony’s decision to make more live service games, and now this chump has come along to tell you why you’re wrong all along. It’s a tale as old as time, and clickbait at its finest, but hear me out – I genuinely think there’s reason to be excited here.
I actually acknowledged in my roundly criticised Game of the Year article over Christmas that I’m less enamoured with the one-and-done single player campaigns of yore, and I think I’m lockstep with Sony’s strategy here. I like service games; I enjoy titles that add new content regularly, and keep me entertained with time-based events, like in Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone.
Now to be totally transparent, I do understand the scepticism: service games can be expensive and consuming. I don’t like having to schedule my recreational time, and I do think there are definitely negatives to the way these titles are designed. At the same time I also think there are positives, and we shouldn’t be so eager to throw those aside; the industry needs to grow and improve.
PlayStation has a really bad reputation for supporting multiplayer games, but I think people focus far too much on the failures and not enough on the successes. Sony absolutely has wins in this space, it’s just that it doesn’t get talked about much in the mainstream. MLB The Show 21 is perhaps the best service-based sports game ever made, and its content updates are vastly superior to what you get elsewhere.
GT Sport is another successful service game that Sony’s published. Polyphony Digital supported this title for years, adding new cars and tracks, and curating a competitive esports scene that attracted huge audiences during events online. The game was even included in the Olympics, which is a testament to the Japanese developer’s efforts.
I think a lot of the scepticism stems from bad impressions. There’s an underlying idea that service-based games are multiplayer only and riddled with microtransactions. But that’s not strictly true: Assassin’s Creed is a service game, with regular new single player events and huge expansions, and it’s a successful one. Why wouldn’t you want more of what you like?
Genshin Impact may attract warranted criticism for its gacha-based gameplay loop, but it’s another example of a service-based game that’s not just an online first-person shooter. There’s plenty of potential here that’s not being explored, and if we trust Sony to create among the best single player campaigns on the planet, why wouldn’t we extend that same principal to its service projects?
Clearly, the company is seeing the sorts of money being generated by the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends, and wants a piece of the pie. You can’t really blame it: the single player games it makes are award winners, but they’re absurdly expensive to create, and once they’ve churned through 10 million copies sold, there’s very little left to extract out of them.
I think it’s going to come down to balance. I am a little sceptical of the company having 10 of these in production at once; it feels like it’s going to throw a lot of crap at the wall in order to see what sticks. But I’m not against the principle at all: the idea of The Last of Us 2’s hotly anticipated multiplayer mode featuring regular gameplay events and updates entices me, rather than turn me off.
At the end of the day, the model will only work with investment and patience. Sony has a terrible track record for turning off servers prematurely, and that’s not going to fly here. It’s shown some belief in Destruction AllStars, and we hope that’s a signal of things to come. Ultimately, though, it needs to make high-quality games before it can look to exploiting them long-term. You may not like Fortnite or Apex Legends, but these titles succeed because their meat-and-potatoes gameplay systems are absurdly well-polished.
But I think there’s so much potential here, from an evolving Twisted Metal to a virtual reality social space, that we should feel encouraged and not threatened by Sony’s plans.
The launch of a game is no longer the end of its journey but the beginning, and I feel like we should be more welcoming of this. I grew up in an era when a single Nintendo 64 game cost almost £60, and you could be done with it in a weekend. Shouldn’t we be embracing a future where our favourite games always offer something new for us to experience in them?
Are you instantly turned off by the idea of live service games, or are you willing to embrace the model as long as the underlying content is of a high quality? Complete the latest Battle Pass in the comments section below.