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May 15, 2024 37 mins

From always-on DRM to the heartbreak of online games getting shut down, we look at the issues gamers encounter with the live service game model.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to tech Stuff, a production from iHeartRadio. He there,
and welcome to tech Stuff. I'm your host, Jonathan Strickland.
I'm an executive producer with iHeart Podcasts and how the
tech Are you well. Welcome to our continuation on the
topic of games as a service or live service games.

(00:28):
If you missed Monday's episode, I recommend you go and
check that one out first. But in general, we're talking
about the tendency for video game developers to move toward
generating games that have a long tail for revenue, whether
that's setting up a subscription model or micro transactions or
something else. I left off last time alluding to how

(00:49):
some developers and publishers started to require gamers to have
a persistent Internet connection for their games. That's where we're
going to pick up today. These are games that would
require players to have an Internet connection even if the
game they were playing otherwise had no online component to it,
like no multiplayer, nothing else. So this was all part

(01:12):
of a DRM strategy or digital rights management. Still very
much something that's happening today, but you know, a decade ago,
this was kind of a new idea. Back in twenty eleven,
Ubisoft released a PC version of the game from Dust
from Dust in case you're not familiar with it, I wasn't.

(01:34):
This is not one of the Ubisoft titles that I've played,
but anyway, it's a game in which you play is
kind of a god. You're manipulating landscapes so that your
worshippers can establish communities and prosper, kind of like Populous
if you remember those old games. The PC version of
the game required an Internet connection in order to even launch,

(01:55):
but the game itself was a single player experience, so
if you didn't have an Internet connection, the game would
not even start. You'd be Soft apparently posted a message
at some point that said you could play the game
with on Internet connection at least after the first play session,
where you would register your copy. But according to sites
I was looking at various media outlets tested this and

(02:18):
found that not to be true. So the whole purpose
of this particular practice was to cut back on piracy
and to require players to prove that they were playing
on an authorized copy of the game. That you're presumed
guilty until you prove yourself innocent. In other words, now,
as I mentioned in the previous episode, one thing game
companies really want to eliminate is the video games after market.

(02:42):
That's bad for gamers because you know, sometimes I remember
doing this myself. You go to a game store and
you look at the used games and say like, well,
I can't really afford to buy this brand new, but
I can buy a used copy and experience this game. Well.
Game companies hate that because they don't make money on

(03:03):
any subsequent sales of used copies. They only make money
if you're buying the new ones. So moving to a
digital realm where digital distribution becomes the norm as opposed
to physical media, that would be a huge benefit to
the video game companies for lots of reasons. It cuts
down on production costs because you don't actually have to

(03:25):
make anything. Physical cuts you know, you don't have to
ship anything, you don't have to have warehouses to store inventory.
There are a lot of things that it solves. But
it opens up the possibility of piracy. And there's not
a publisher out there, no matter what kind of media
we're talking about, that isn't up in arms about the

(03:48):
possibility of piracy, not even if piracy is even happening.
We've heard in the past about how companies have argued
they have lost millions or even billions of dollars due
to piracy. Although this is all always a difficult argument
to make because, as I have said many times, you
can't point to piracy and say that's the same thing
as lost sales because there's no guarantee that the people

(04:10):
who pirated the stuff would have purchased it legitimately. Otherwise
you can't make that argument. But it's obvious that piracy
could have a massive impact. So this is particularly understandable
with the digital landscape. It is incredibly simple to make
copies of stuff. It's almost effortless to do so, right, Like,
you could just make a copy available on something like

(04:32):
a peer to peer sharing network or a server or something,
and that's all there is to it. You don't have
to like sit down and transfer tapes to disc and
all that kind of stuff. So companies have spent a
lot of time and effort developing strategies to prevent people
from being able to do that. The problem for gamers
is that these measures often create a negative experience for

(04:53):
people who have purchased a legitimate copy of the game,
and if anything, that kind of actually encourages more piracy
attempts because people will try to find a way to
strip DRM out of games so that they can have
an unfettered gaming experience. Like when the experience of playing
a legitimate copy of a game is worse than playing

(05:16):
a pirated copy, people are going to start pirating more.
It's been argued many times that DRM has made piracy
worse rather than prevented it. Anyway, Ubisoft's move was a
pretty rough one, and to say that people were upset
is putting it mildly. Though they might be more upset
if From Dust had actually been a more popular game.
I don't know if they were like diehard From Dust fans.

(05:40):
I honestly had not heard of this game before. Diablo three,
which inarguably had a much higher profile than From Dust,
had similar criticisms thrown its way. Diablo three is a
game from Blizzard, and the Diablo franchise has been a
really popular one over the years. It's also no stranger
to play or frustration. There have been some pretty notable

(06:00):
outcries from players relating to Diablo. Like From Dust, Diablo
three required and always on connection because of DRM. But
unlike From Dust, Diblo three also had a few benefits
that derived from that persistent online connection, stuff like you know,
leader boards and that kind of thing. So you could

(06:22):
argue there was at least some additional value for the
player for connecting online for each session, you know, beyond
just being able to boot up the game and play
it in the first place. But people were still upset
that a single player game would require an Internet connection
at all. And I get it. You know, I've lived
in places that have had really spotty internet, and I've

(06:43):
also taken games with me on trips where I've gone
to places where there was no Internet connection at all.
It is beyond irritating when you fire up a game
that you have paid for, perhaps even paid full price for,
and because of a lack of Internet connection, you can't
launch it because the game just assumes you're a nasty
little thief. Like again, you are presumed to be guilty.

(07:05):
It's pretty insulting after you've dropped like sixty or seventy
dollars on a title. Anyway, this whole thing is a
bit of a tangent from games as a service. It
is related, I would argue, but it's not directly connected
to it. I guess the persistent internet connection element, however,
would become a component for a lot of these live
service games. It's what enables companies to create a stream

(07:26):
of updates and content releases that keeps players engaged in
particular games, and it opens up opportunities for these companies
to make more money. Now. In that last episode, I
also talked about MMO games that's massively multiplayer online games.
I specifically talked a lot about mmoorpgs. The RPG stands

(07:48):
for role playing game. Just in case you're not familiar,
Nearly all of the early mmoorpgs worked on a subscription
model in which gamers would have to purchase a copy
of the game. You buy a copy, but then you
would also have to pay a recurring monthly fee to
access the online servers that hosted the game. Typically, the

(08:09):
purchase would come with a certain number of months added
in to or bundled in with that price, so that
you're not, you know, paying fifty bucks for a game
and then immediately having to pay ten or fifteen dollars
a month to play it. But eventually, you know, even
if you didn't mind the fee, you would potentially run

(08:30):
up to a problem where you have experienced kind of
like everything the game has to offer. So at that point,
a company might see subscriber numbers start to drop off,
and the costs of running servers so that you know,
remaining players could continue to access the game would continue, right, like,
the cost of supporting that game doesn't go away just

(08:52):
because some people are leafing. So this meant that there
was an incentive for companies to come up with ways
to keep players staying on the game for longer, to
keep them gauged, so they would start to generate new
content in order to do that. Now, some mmrpgs would
require players to spend a decent chunk of change to

(09:13):
access that new material. So World of Warcraft, for example,
has had nine major expansion packs released since the game
first debuted, and these expansions typically introduce a lot of
new content. Sometimes it actually changes existing areas in the
game dramatically at times, and this reflects massive story elements

(09:35):
that unfold in the world's narrative. These expansions would mean
that two different players could have wildly different experiences within
the game, Like if one person had purchased and installed
an expansion and the other one hadn't, there's going to
be a gap in those experiences. But typically these gaps
would only kick in at higher character levels in the

(09:57):
game that you couldn't even access these new areas until
you had reached a certain level, So until that point
there wouldn't be a whole lot of difference between the
two experiences. However, beyond that, the person who had the
expansion would be able to experience areas and content that
the other one would not have access to and could
not get to. The expansions themselves would cost extra to purchase,

(10:19):
so you would have to buy the expansion, and then
at that point you just had the normal subscription fee
kick in after whatever grace period there might be unless
whatever game you're playing switched to a free to play mode,
and typically that means that players can access some of

(10:40):
the game for free, but then eventually they hit a
content paywall that will require a subscription in order for
them to access it. I've played a few games where
it did this, where you could walk around and then
you might find like a gateway, but the gateway itself
would be inactive to you because you would have to
pay a subscription before or you would be allowed to

(11:01):
access it. World of Warcraft actually made this transition to
free to play back in last year in twenty twenty
three and allowed players to create characters and level them
up to level twenty before they hit a paywall, and
at that point it's time to part with fifteen dollars
per month. Or you can opt to pay for several
months in advance, which reduces the cost per month that way.

(11:23):
Or you can use something they call game time, where
you could just pay for sixty days of access and
it doesn't become a recurring subscription. So maybe you've been
playing for a while and you dropped off, So then
you pay, you know, for game time, you get sixty
days access, you play for two months to try and
access of some of the content that you hadn't seen already,

(11:45):
and then once that time is over, you could just
choose to walk away or you know, subscriber, whatever you
want to do. In more recent years, we've seen the
industry at large put more emphasis on these ongoing revenue
generation models. A Grand Theft Auto of five, which sold
a mind boggling one hundred ninety five million units since

(12:05):
it came out way back in twenty thirteen according to
Statistic Anyway, that's a great example, according to game Ramp.
According to game Rant, GTA five had a budget of
two hundred sixty five million dollars for development. That is insane.

(12:26):
In fact, according to the numbers, it was even bigger
than the largest budgeted film for twenty thirteen. That film
was The Loan Ranger, which bombed, but The Loan Ranger's
budget was estimated to be around two hundred and twenty
five million dollars. So GTA five cost forty million dollars
more in budget than the largest budgeted film of twenty thirteen.

(12:51):
That is an incredible number to think about, and then
you think, well, making that money back, making a profit,
that's really challenging. However, for Rockstar, that investment is paid
off because GTA five has made around eight and a
half billion dollars billion with a B since it was

(13:13):
released in twenty thirteen. And again, that number is just
it's so huge as to be unimaginable to me. And
a large part of that revenue is thanks to the
online component, fittingly called GTA Online. It wasn't ready when
the game initially launched, but GTA Online would become an
enormous powerhouse for Rockstar in time. Now, the access to

(13:36):
the online component is free, or at least it's free
on top of whatever fee a gamer might be paying
in order to access online services through their respective platforms,
because both Xbox and PlayStation have done that right where
you have to pay a certain amount in order to
be able to tap into the online capabilities of those consoles.

(13:56):
There are options to spend real world money in GA
Online to unlock in game content. You can choose to
just play it for free. You don't have to spend money.
You can opt to earn stuff in the game, but
it's going to be at a rate that is really slow,
slow enough that you might find yourself tempted to spend

(14:17):
some real world cash to speed things up a bit,
purchasing a so called Shark card with real world money
in Jet's virtual cash into your GTA online character's bank account,
or as Rockstar has put it, quote cash is king
in this town. Solve your money problem and help get
what you want across Los Sentos and Blaine County with

(14:39):
the occasional purchase of cash packs for Grand Theft Auto
Online end quote. But just to cover their butts and
to emphasize that maybe you should practice a little restraint,
the company also adds, quote spend wisely. Cash therapy is
fleeting in the quote, and I guess say I'm impressed
with help blatant. Rockstar is on the whole spend money,

(15:00):
need to make our game more fun for you messaging.
In fact, we'll touch on that more in just a moment,
but first let's take a quick break to thank our sponsors. Okay,
before the break, we were talking about GTA Online and

(15:24):
the incentive that Rockstar has created to convince players to
spend real world cash on in game currency. That virtual
cash in the game is what gets you access to
some of the fanciest toys that are available. That might
be a suite headquarters where you can hang out with
your buddies. It might be brand new vehicles that you

(15:47):
can tool around in. It could be all sorts of
different stuff. And you can even purchase a version of
GTA Online that's separate from the GTA five game if
all you want to do is just play the online component,
and that'll save you like twenty bucks in upfront costs
at that point. Now, rock Stars being a bit cheeky
in its descriptions of this, but I feel the company's

(16:10):
messaging is shining a light on one of the real
challenges of live service games. At least in the minds
of some gamers, and that's making sure that players don't
walk away with the feeling that they have to keep
paying in order to make a game be fun. Like
that's a terrible realization to come to. Right You're playing

(16:30):
a game and you're like, well, this isn't fun. I'm
not enjoying this, and then you realize, oh, the fun
stuff has been locked behind a paywall, so I have
to pay money if I want to actually enjoy this experience.
There is a very delicate line between providing new experiences
and content for players that they feel is worth paying
for and holding back on the best stuff of the

(16:53):
game unless the players cough of the dough. If players
start to feel that they're being milked of cash just
because they want to have fun playing a game, they
get resentful for really good reason. I mean, games are
supposed to be entertaining. That's why they exist. So if
you get a feeling that a game is not entertaining
unless you keep paying money to the developer, that just

(17:14):
feels like you're being exploited and taken advantage of. That's
not fun. Rockstar has continued to develop lots of content
for GTA online, which means that it's also important for
them to continue to generate a stream of revenue because
without the revenue, there's no incentive for Rockstar to spend
assets to build stuff for the game. You would just

(17:37):
have a static world and it would only exist for
as long as Rockstar was willing to pay for the
maintenance of servers. Right, So you have to have that
ongoing revenue stream. And we don't yet have GTA six
available to us. It is in development and we've seen
some like first looks and stuff, but the general expectation
is that we're going to see such a similar approach

(18:00):
GTA six that embraces long tail revenue streams. Hopefully they'll
be incorporated in a way that doesn't feel like rock
Star is trying to exploit its fan base. But without
that long tail, there's no reason to spend the ginormous
amounts of money needed to build out a game with
the scope of GTA. There's no reason to spend two

(18:21):
hundred and sixty million dollars making a game because you'd
never make that back. So you can argue that if
players reject the GTA online model, game studios would have
no option but to scale way back on games and
cut budgets drastically in order for the business model to
make sense. Would that be a bad thing, Not necessarily,

(18:42):
but it would mean that the games we would get
would be less ambitious in scope, right, We wouldn't have
these enormous open world games with incredible depth and detail
to them. I think of things like games out of
Bethesda where you're looking at Fallout or Elders Roles. These
are huge, epic worlds. Whether you enjoy them or not

(19:05):
is up to your subjective tastes, but it's undeniable that
there's a huge amount of work that goes into them,
and those things aren't possible if you can't find these
ways to generate long tail revenue for the most part,
because who's gonna be able to keep that and make
it sustainable. On the flip side, some people would argue, well,

(19:28):
games have gotten so large in scope that it's overwhelming
and stops being fun, And that's a different conversation. Again,
I think it comes down to personal preference. But maybe
then you'd say, well, I think it might be a
good thing for the video game industry to kind of
check itself a bit and take a step back and
perhaps not tackle these ever growing projects that get increasingly

(19:55):
more complicated and expensive. That's the real rub of it.
Even for teams that just want to build a single
player experience, to do that on a triple A scale
requires a level of investment. It's just plain hard to
profit from if it's just a single purchase model. If
all you're doing is making an incredibly rich, detailed, enormous

(20:16):
first single player game and then releasing it and just
selling the one copy and that's it, you would need
to sell so many copies of that game to return
something to that level of investment that it's a huge risk.
Ongoing revenue streams, either from subscriptions or micro transactions or whatever,
are way more attractive. The good developers will build that

(20:38):
into their plans for a steady stream of new content
adding value to what hopefully is already a good game.
Bad developers will hope they can ring as much cash
out from players as they can before the gig is
up and you know, everyone calls them out on their BS.
Many live service games have adopted a seasonal structure for

(20:59):
their content. Games like Sea of Thieves, Fortnite, Fall Guys Deep,
brought Galactic Dead by daylight. Tons of games use a
seasonal model. Some of these games introduce new content during
a season with the promise that once the season is over,
players will no longer be able to acquire the stuff

(21:19):
that had been introduced. And this creates a sense that
if you allow your subscription to lapse or you don't
pay up to access this new season, you're going to
be missing out and you won't ever be able to
get whatever stuff was introduced at that time. So the
fomo that fear of missing out is strong with seasonal approaches. Now,
let's talk about another specific subset of micro transactions and games.

(21:43):
This is one that has drawn criticism and scrutiny from
regulators around the world, and that would be lootboxes. Some
games let players buy in game items directly. Right, maybe
you have your eye on a particular outfit in a
game and you think that looks really snazzy. I really
want to have my character wearing this outfit, and maybe
the game allows you to actually PLoP down real world

(22:06):
dollars or whatever currency you are working in so that
your in game character can look amazing. That's great. You
know the people who want to do that can do that,
and everyone else can just move along. But what if
instead you can only spend money for the chance of
getting that outfit, and there's no guarantee that that's what
you're going to get. That's what loot boxes represent. They

(22:29):
are in game items that represent a random or pseudo
random bit of content. So players spend real world money
not on a specific thing, but on the equivalent of
a pull on a slot machine. So if the player
is incredibly lucky, the loot box will reveal that they've
been awarded the very thing that the player wanted, but

(22:50):
the odds are not very good. You could argue this
whole model is heavily inspired by gambling, particularly on stuff
like slot machines. So why do folks play slot machines.
They play because the machines represent the possibility of a payout,
and a lot of machines are designed so that they
display near misses right like, it's not just a clear miss,

(23:12):
though that can be shown too, but you're so close
it almost lined up, and if it had lined up,
you would have gotten a big payout. That creates this
feeling that you almost succeeded and that you just need
to stick with it a little bit longer. And then
you're going to be rolling in the dough. It's all
in an effort to encourage more gambling. Despite the token

(23:33):
warnings and some casinos about the dangers of gambling addiction,
loot boxes arguably do something very similar. They tempt players
with the prospect of awarding rare in game items, whether
those items are purely cosmetic or maybe they have some
in game effect, and that has gotten companies into trouble.

(23:53):
Various lawsuits around the world have been built around an
argument that loot boxes are, at their heart, a kind
of gambling. However, one thing that has remained a sticking
point is that, unlike gambling, the stuff that comes out
of loot boxes typically cannot be converted back into real
world dollars, so that has defeated the gambling argument in

(24:15):
a lot of court cases. That's an important distinction, right.
If you go to play a poker game, for example,
you may first have to convert your money into chips,
and then you play your game. Let's say you're up,
you're down, whatever it is. At the end of your
time playing, you take whatever chips you have and you
convert them back into money. But with loot boxes, you
don't get to do that, you convert your money into

(24:37):
loot boxes, or you convert your money into some in
game currency that you then spend on loot boxes. Then
you open the loot boxes and you end up with
whatever the rewards are, but you can't change those back
into real world dollars, at least not for most games. Now.
I say most games because there have been lots of
games that have allowed players to trade items in game

(24:59):
between one another, where you can give it as a
gift or you can trade for something else. And in
those types of games, time and again we've seen markets
spring up, player run markets in which players are offering
to give away items in return for real money. But
in those cases, you could argue this is really just
more of a black market situation. The game itself is

(25:21):
not responsible for creating those markets. It's arguably just inspiring
it to happen. Many of the loop box court cases
essentially have boiled down to saying that loop boxes are
not technically gambling. But there's plenty of work published out
there that points out how video games are relying on
the same incentives as you would encounter in games of chance.

(25:43):
I already mentioned the near miss thing with slot machines. Well,
slot machines also will give much smaller payouts, sometimes small
enough where it's not even covering however much money you've
been spending as you're playing, and that this also helps
encourage people play longer and to lose more money. Well,
video games can also give out smaller payouts to convince

(26:07):
you that, oh, you almost got the thing you wanted.
You did get something. It's much lower in your esteem
than whatever it is you're after, but at least it's something.
And there are all these little feedback methods that games
rely on in order to keep their players active in
the game and hopefully spending more money to achieve some

(26:27):
specific task. So I think it's legit to argue that
the games are using somewhat predatory strategies in order to
maximize revenue, even if the end result isn't gambling from
a legal sense. It's just, you know, it's not against
the law to get people hooked on playing a game
that's not illegal. So that's the big loophole there. Now,

(26:50):
there is one massive drawback to all the online stuff
that we do need to talk about, But before we
get to that, we're going to take another quick break
to thank our sponsors. Will be right back all right.

(27:12):
Before that break, I alluded to the fact that there
is a huge disadvantage to these online components, and that
is that there can come a time when a game company,
for whatever reason, withdraws support for the game and operating
game service. You know, like I said, it requires ongoing investment.
You have to do maintenance and repair, You have to

(27:35):
pay electrical bills if nothing else. So even just keeping
an online game going requires a company to pour money
into it. So it should come as no surprise that
sometimes companies will shut stuff down if the money coming
in is less than the money going out. That's what
you got to do in order to keep your business
afloat right. And also there are times where companies just

(27:56):
go out of business. You know, maybe they went bankrupt,
maybe they got a quiet. All of these things can
affect whether or not a game will continue to get
ongoing support. The list of abandoned games online games is
pretty long, and of course it will just get longer.
They include a lot of MMORPGs, you know, games like

(28:16):
City of Heroes or Asheron's Call or Jade Dynasty, among
with like dozens of others have had their day in
the proverbial sun, only to subsequently fade from view now.
Sometimes the communities for these games will keep things running
with fan run servers. I mean City of Heroes has
some of those where there's community servers out there that

(28:39):
you can still play on. But other times the game
just goes away and it means that you've got a
game in your collection that you paid money for that
you could no longer play because there's no longer a
server supporting it. Sometimes the problem actually has to do
with things like licensing fees. Right Like, if a game
has been made that draws upon an establish IP, typically

(29:02):
that sort of thing is done for a set amount
of time and that is determined by a licensing agreement.
Like a company might secure a license for a popular
IP I'm just gonna name a random one. Let's say
it's Batman, and the agreement allows the company to run
this game for five years before the licensing agreement expires. Well,

(29:24):
when that agreement does reach the end of its life cycle,
that means that the game company either needs to pay
to renew that license or it will have to end
support for the game. And if a game again is
not driving enough revenue, you can bet the company would
go with option number two for games that require an
always on DRM connection. That is another huge hassle, right

(29:45):
because if someone buys a copy of the game, they
typically expect to be able to play that anytime they
want from that point forward. They bought it, so they
should be able to play it. However, if the game
they bought requires a connection to a DRM server and
the game company goes away or those servers are shut
down and they don't send out some sort of update

(30:07):
that removes that DRM, that means the gamer is pretty
much faced with two options. I either find a cracked
copy of the game that has had the DRM stripped
out of it so they can just keep playing, or
they never play the game again because there are no
verification servers out there and so the game won't launch.
A couple of games have really frustrated players with DRM

(30:29):
server shutdowns, such as Three Switched and dark Spot. Both
of those games had always on DRM, and both of
those games had those servers shut down, which made the
games inert and it meant the only way you could
play them was to get cracked versions of those games.
So again, this DRM really is inspiring piracy more than

(30:52):
dissuading pirates. But obviously the games that exist solely as
online experiences are affected by server shutdowns, and that's It's
like the same thing as saying you have one copy
of the game, it's stored on your computer's hard drive,
and your hard drive dies, well, like imagine that, but
it's for an online server and the entire instance is dead.

(31:13):
Sometimes again, communities will keep things going all in an
effort to keep a game alive past it shutdown date.
Other times you will hear about players who will gather
online when a game is coming to an end, kind
of like they're there to observe the end of the world,
like it's an apocalyptic film or something. There are videos
online of players congregating on various online worlds just as

(31:37):
those online worlds were getting switched off for the last time.
There are other really big issues in the video game
industry these days, apart from the ones I'm talking about,
Like one big one is the push to get games
released as quickly as they can be. Gamers are notoriously
bad at dealing with delayed gratification. That's part of why
there's this rush among some gamers to jump into earth.

(32:00):
The access for games or for beta testing, and so
video game companies are often under a ton of pressure
to get games out the door, even if those games
are not fully baked yet, and a lot of that
pressure doesn't necessarily just come from gamers, but from higher
up on the food chain in the games industry, like
there might be parent companies that want numbers on spreadsheets

(32:20):
to look real good in time for an earnings call,
and they might put the pressure to get a game
out the door even if it's not fully ready yet.
So lots of times games go live while they still
need a lot of TLC. And it's become pretty common
in the video game world to release a title and
then require players to also download a massive patch early
on to fix issues with the game, and a lot

(32:41):
of games will release patches in the months that follow
the released in order to address various bugs. Now, to
be fair, we were talking earlier about the size and
scope of massive like Triple A games. These days, when
you get to that size, there's just no way for
you to test everything thoroughly with all all the different
possible variations that will happen once a game goes gold,

(33:05):
assuming that game is popular, right, you can only test
so many things. But in the real world people will
try all sorts of stuff that you never even thought of,
and some of that's going to break the game. So
it's really only when the game is out in the
real world and players are putting it through its paces
that you find where the pain points are. And you
should expect patches to follow the release of larger games,

(33:29):
but yet it's still something of a joke in the
game's world that anytime a game comes out these days,
it does so with an enormous patch required on day one.
But this is the world of big games. That's how
things are now. And of course there are still smaller
games out there, you know, games that don't necessarily require
persistent online connections or have micro transactions or seasons of

(33:52):
content or any of that stuff. But the studios that
make these games are often these smaller, independent studios that
are in the sights of the bigger players in the space.
As those bigger companies gobble up the studios left and right,
so your Microsoft's send your ten cents and your Embracer groups.

(34:12):
They go out there and they acquire these smaller companies,
and sometimes these are the same companies that get shut
down later on by these bigger fish like you know,
Arcane Austin and Tango Game Works and those sorts of studios.
There are ways to do live service games correctly. There

(34:33):
are ways that you can do it where it doesn't
seem to withhold the best content in return for you know,
someone paying a ransom to the developer to get access
to it. There are ways that encourage players to enjoy
a game on their own terms, which can include spending
a bit more after initial purchase if the players want to.
I've played a few games myself where I've chosen to

(34:55):
purchase stuff in game because the title I was playing
was free to play, or or I had been playing
it for years and I was really enjoying it, and
I wanted to continue to support something that I really
liked because that's the way I get more stuff that
I like. Plus, I mean, some of those exclusive outfits
get real snazzy. But obviously there are lots of ways

(35:15):
to do it poorly. And I think that's the big
issue we're seeing right now in the video games industry
is that there are a lot of companies that seem
to be pretty eager to throw in as many of
these abilities to generate revenue down the line of a
games lifespan as is possible without regard to how that
actually impacts the playing experience or gamers' perceptions of the game.

(35:40):
There have been a lot of games that have come
out recently that have had some hefty criticism thrown their way.
For this, one that just recently springs to mind is
the Suicide Squad Kills the Justice League game. That one
has received a lot of criticism recently for many reasons,
not just the live service aspects of the game, but

(36:03):
that has been part of that conversation. So yeah, I
don't think live service is going away. I don't think
games as a service is really going away. I think
you will still find independent game developers who create really
interesting and fun and entertaining games out there that lack
a lot of the stuff because they're not working at

(36:23):
that same scale. But I think just the nature of
the truly enormous games, the really deep, huge games of scope,
that kind of necessitates this long tail revenue approach. Otherwise
there's no reason to do it because you'll never make
your money back. You'll spend way more developing than you'll

(36:43):
get from sales. So again I think It's understandable, but
there is, in my opinion, a right way and a
wrong way to go about doing it. I hope you
enjoyed this pair of episodes. I hope you are all well,
and I'll talk to you again really soon. Tech Stuff

(37:06):
is an iHeartRadio production. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit
the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to
your favorite shows.

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