Live-service fever has gripped Warner Bros. and Sony, but how many of these games can the market take?
In its latest earnings call, Warner Bros. has stated its aim to transform its various gaming franchises into live-service games. Meanwhile, Sony has 12 live-service games in the works for release over the next few years. In other words, there are a lot of live-service games on the way.
“Our focus is on transforming our biggest franchises from largely console and PC based with three-four year release schedules to include more always-on gameplay through live services, multiplatform and free-to-play extensions, with the goal to have more players spending more time on more platforms,” said CEO David Zaslav in the Warner Bros. earnings call. “Ultimately we want to drive engagement and monetisation of longer cycles and at higher levels.”
Warner Bros.’ gaming franchises include Mortal Kombat (which has also spawned a film franchise), Harry Potter, Batman and Game Of Thrones, as well as the Smash Bros-style fighter MultiVersus.
The next game from the Warner-owned studio Rocksteady – the developer behind the Batman: Arkham games – will be Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League in February 2024, and we’ve already seen some of the live-service trappings which will be baked into that game. These include a “battle pass system to earn new outfits, emotes and other items to customise playable characters”, as detailed on the game’s FAQ page. The game will also require an online connection when playing, even for single player.
Meanwhile, Sony has 12 live-service games in the works. The company was originally planning to have all of these on the market by the end of March 2026, but as reported by VGC, Sony president, COO and CFO Hiroki Totoki has indicated that some of the games may be pushed back.
“[Of] the 12 titles, six titles will be released by FY25 – that’s our current plan,” he said. “[As for] the remaining six titles, we are still working on that.” He also reiterated Sony’s focus on live-service games, saying: “mid-to-long-term we want to [push] this kind of service and that’s the unchanged policy of the company.”
Some of the live-service titles in development at Sony include multiplayer titles based on The Last Of Us and the Horizon series, as well as Haven Studios’ Fairgame$ and Bungie’s Marathon.
It’s easy to see why companies like Sony and Warner Bros. are pursuing live service: games are getting more and more expensive to make, and the idea of having potentially bigger returns on that investment is attractive. But the big question is: can the market support all of these live-service games?
“For every live service game still pulling in millions of gamers and millions of dollars, there are ten that have failed,” noted Vikki Blake in an opinion piece earlier this year. “For every Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Rainbow Six Siege, there’s a Hyper Scape, a Marvel’s Avengers, or a Babylon’s Fall. Games that were released with all the requisite fanfare and promise… only to be unceremoniously shut down within a year or two.”
Read more: Live service gaming: are you sick of it yet?