Live service games are the future, a new report suggests

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Some 95 percent of videogame developers are working on some form of live service game with regular updates, a new survey indicates.

Whether always-online, constantly-evolving games like this month’s Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League appeal to you or not, the business model appears to be here to stay. That’s if a new report written by Griffin Gaming Partners (PDF) – and first reported on by Games – is an accurate indicator.

Having surveyed over 500 videogame studios, the report found that 95 percent of them are “either working on or intend to release a live services title” in the future. Breaking those stats down a bit further, 65 percent of studios said they have a live service game in the works at one stage of development or another, while 30 percent have a live service game out and regularly refreshed with updates.

Only five percent of studios have no plans to provide any live service elements in their upcoming games.

It should be pointed out, though, that the sorts of games referred to aren’t necessarily the kind of money-hungry, microtransaction-based titles like Fortnite and its competitors. In a bit of asterisked small print, the report states that “Live services is defined as any regular update cadence planned for a game.”

By this token, something like Shovel Knight, which received several free DLC updates over its lifetime, could have been lumped in with the live service sector, even though it was a largely single-player platformer and had about as much in common with something like Fortnite as a cat does with a sea cucumber.

The report does appear to indicate however, just how competitive the videogames industry has become, with developers having to fight ever harder not just to attract players to their game, but keep them there for more than a few days. Looking elsewhere in the report, and it’s clear that games are becoming ever bigger, more complex, and more expensive to produce.

Rather than scale back and make smaller, cheaper games that require smaller audiences to turn a profit, it seems that the greater percentage of the industry is opting to double down. We saw evidence of this last year when Warner Bros announced its intention to turn more DC comics properties into live service games, while Sony was revealed to have about a dozen live service games due for release over the coming years.

As we’ve seen with such expensive-looking multiplayer games as Babylon’s Fall, Knockout City and even Marvel’s The Avengers, however, taking the live service route is a high-stakes gamble that doesn’t always pay off.

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