At one point in time, Electronic Arts swore that multiplayer games were the future. In fact, they were so sure of this theory that they opted to close Visceral Games, shutting down their potentially big Star Wars game that they were working on at the time alongside Uncharted scribe Amy Hennig.
But here we are, years later, watching as the company pulls the plug on its innovative live- service dodgeball game Knockout City, mainly because they believe there’s a lack of interest.
And that’s not the only game that’s biting the dust with live-service aspects. Anthem and Marvel’s Avengers are pretty much finished with content; Rumbleverse is closing up shop at month’s end, though the project will continue in some other form at Iron Galaxy; and CrossFireX is being put out of its misery, following its lousy performance. So what happened? In an era where Rocket League and Fortnite make serious bank in the live- service market, why can’t others succeed like they did? There are a number of factors to consider, so let’s look at each one.
Lack of Marketing
Once again, we can blame a lack of marketing and hype when it comes to certain games. Fortnite continues to succeed because of crossover hits and continuous hype across social media. Rocket League also thrives with sponsored deals, special guest cars and events. Alas, EA just didn’t give that level of push to Knockout City. For good measure, Iron Galaxy did everything it could to hype Rumbleverse, but even with Epic Games supporting it, it never got enough.
CrossFireX, however, failed because of the opposite. It got proper hype from Microsoft – and even a single player campaign made by Remedy Entertainment. But the game just wasn’t fun, and word of mouth went far and wide to the user base. Just play Call of Duty instead.
So, yeah, if there’s no hype to keep the train going, there’s a chance it could possibly derail.
Sad, but true.
Too Many Live-Service Games?
Another thing to consider is that there are just too many games out there that rely on the live-service model, but without really doing too much to innovate it. Granted, Rumbleverse and Knockout City had great ideas, but they didn’t translate to the level of addictiveness like Fortnite embodies.
Not to mention there’s so many to choose from, maybe it was just hard for players to make a solid choice on what they wanted to play. And even if something seemed like their speed, they could lose interest. Case in point – Marvel’s Avengers wasn’t bad when it started, but then it was loaded with microtransactions ($18 for a helmet-less Thor skin? Really?) and its story content came up short when it came to timeliness.
So between the competition stacking up with certain games and others not doing enough, this feels like a “thinning out the herd” sort of thing. Some games were meant to survive, but others trying to copy that success just couldn’t keep up.
Players Are Tired of Microtransactions and Multiplayer
One other huge aspect to consider is that some people just don’t get into multiplayer. That’s a lot to go on. Some don’t mind certain games, but others want a compelling single player journey where they learn more about the style they play. Multiplayer can’t really do that in some cases, especially if you’re getting buried in a Knockout City match against more experienced players. Not to mention that, despite EA’s thinking above, single player games are on the rise yet again.
God of War: Ragnarok cleared ten million copies sold since its release, and Dead Space is doing remarkably well. Not to mention that Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor already have huge pre-order numbers.
Maybe it’s just a thinning of the herd, in a matter of what gamers are looking for. But it also doesn’t help to load the game with microtransactions that turn off the experience. Marvel’s Avengers was notorious for this when it shouldn’t have been; and some are concerned that EA’s forthcoming free-to-play Skate will lean on them a bit too heavily. We hope this isn’t the case.
Are Live-Service Games Dead?
While live-service games aren’t dead – Fortnite and Rocket League continue to be leading factors in this argument – there’s no question that they could use a little revising. Developers shouldn’t try to rush a game out there in an effort to “be the next Fortnite.” Instead, they should take a closer look at what gamers might be looking for and create an experience that’s not only fulfilling, but also long-lasting.
And damn it, not loaded with microtransactions. We can’t stress this enough.
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