GameCentral readers discuss the rise of games as a service and how many they play at once, from Overwatch to Rainbow Six Siege.
The subject for this weeks Hot Topic was suggested by reader Anton, who wanted to tackle one of the big buzzwords of the moment: games as a service – any game which is constantly updated with the intention of keeping you playing for months and years to come.
We wanted to know how you find the time to play more the one and whether you thought the concept was a fair one. Many seemed to think it was, although very few admitted to playing more than one or two at once.
The spice of online life
I have been playing GTA Online on PlayStation 4 ever since it first switched on, and if thats games as a service then I am all for it. But for me its not something I play all the time. I just dip in and out whenever I fancy, maybe once or twice a year for a few hours at a time. I wouldnt say it was my main multiplayer, but just something I play regular in between other games that dont last so long. Like, I was playing Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 a lot when it first came out but Im starting to think Ive had enough now and I can see myself giving up and selling it before Christmas.
That happens a lot with me and multiplayer games, even though I suppose Black Ops 4 is also games a service. The difference is with GTA Online you never really know whats coming next. Sometimes its just a new vehicle, sometimes weapons or clothes, sometimes its a brand new mode thats a completely new genre like the attempt to do Micro Machines with GTA.
Then they do season events (Im sure somethings coming up for Christmas) and even big expansions, which havent come up for a while. Its that variety and unpredictability that keeps me playing long after other multiplayer games have lost my interest.
I mean, is it too obvious for me to say Fortnite? Now, clearly the fact that its free accounts for a lot of the games success but its more than that. The way they keep updating it with new content is really impressive. Not just the frequency but the way its always got different themes and it really does seem to go out of its way to be as imaginative and clever as possible, with lots of clues for fans to find and taking suggestions from the community.
The whole thing with the tear and the cube was amazing and like nothing Ive ever seen in an MMO, let alone what is essentially just an online shooter. As long as they keep doing this I dont see the game ever going away in popularity.
Its almost like a TV show that you regularly tune into to see whats happened next. And well, you know how long things like Coronation Street and EastEnders have been going on…
Dragging it out
I have been playing a lot of Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 lately, and Ive been very impressed generally. The Battle Royale mode is very good and the standard multiplayer is the best Ive played in a long while (although I did miss the last two or three before this).
I also havent had any problem with microtransactions which arent required and dont seem to give anyone too much of an advantage. As long as this remains the case then I cant say I have too much of a problem with games as a service.
The biggest issue is that it seems likely to drag some games out for more than they deserve. Like, Ill probably be playing Black Ops 4 for a few more months and then move onto something else, so I cant really imagine them adding anything substantial enough to keep me playing longer than that. If youre into it though I guess its all good.
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Life is short
Although I have no problem with games as a service on a moral level – its not like theyre loot boxes or something – if I find out thats the basis of a games appeal it instantly puts me off. I just do not have time for a game whose whole goal is to drag itself out for as long as possible – potentially forever.
I dont play a lot of multiplayer games but do enjoy Battlefield, PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds, and others from time to time. Although Im already not sure I want to get Battlefield V because its much more games as a service than before and I assume this is the reason why its launched with so little content (that and being rushed for Christmas).
Maybe the fact that its designed to last for two years is an appeal for some people but for me it just means that therell never be an obvious time to sell it and it may only be towards the end of that time that it has its full suite of features. Lifes too short for all that if you ask me.
For Honor has been the best example of this that Ive seen. I picked it up when it first came out but although I enjoyed the combat it was all a bit bare bones, with not many modes and not much structure to how you play. You just had a few goes, got bored, and that was it.
But over the last year or so theyve added so much it might as well be a different game. New modes, new factions, new events… the gameplay is the same but everything around the game has been built up like have new grounds for a football club as they go up the divisions.
This alone makes me think that games as a service can be a perfectly positive idea in video games. I wouldnt play many of them at once simply because I havent got the time, but even if I did youre not necessarily paying out any more money so I see no reason to complain. Although of course most of them do have microtransactions, which are not so easy for some people to ignore.
Old school service
I think FIFA, Call Of Duty, and Battlefield all count as game as a service now but they still seem fairly old school in the way they work, even for me to have enough time to play them all when I want.
Destiny was the first time Id heard the phrase, and became aware of a game that was desperate for me to spend all my time with it and never move onto something else. I know thats not necessarily anything new to complain about but I always found it put me off more than anything else, and I didnt want to give it the time or risk an addiction.
Games without end
I dont think Ive ever played more than one online multiplayer game at a time. They just demand so much of my time that I dont find it possible to get into more than one, especially if Ive got an offline single-player game on the go too.
As a result, Ive got an unspoken policy to limit the entire period I spend with an online game to around three months unless Im not enjoying it, in which case Ill obviously chip it off earlier. Even games I adored like Titanfall 2 got dropped because of this.
I think it started when I picked up the first online game I really got invested in, which was Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (also by the original Infinity Ward team). I probably played that exclusively between November 2009 and late April 2010, or whenever the first Red Dead Redemption came out, and it was the reason for my first real backlog of other games.
After that first prolonged experience I quickly learned my lesson that not only would I be unable to keep up with all the multiplayers that seem to demand becoming the only game I play but also that the range of other games I can try would suffer dramatically.
The buy in is too costly in terms of time and I think there needs to be a great deal more reflection from publishers who dont seem to regard it as an issue for the wider market, and also from gamers who can end up moulding their lives according to their gaming and not the other way around.
If something is deliberately designed to never truly end, you need to take responsibility for ending it on your terms.
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