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95% of Studios Are Reportedly Developing or Maintaining Live Service Games

95% of Studios Are Reportedly Developing or Maintaining Live Service Games - News

by William D'Angelo , posted on 04 March 2024 / 8,349 Views

95 percent of video game studios are developing or maintaining a live service game, according to the 2023 Game Development Report from Griffin Gaming Partners spotted by GamesIndustry.

The report surveyed 537 studios from around the world and found that 66 percent of developers "agreed that live services are necessary for long-term title success." It also states that development on traditional games takes two to three years, while live service games take over five years.

"Multi-year game development forms production processes and pipelines that are intended to deliver a few key milestones in what is essentially a waterfall process. Production in live services, however, is a constant state of planning & adjusting game parameters to enhance player experience while designing and deploying new features to add new player value," reads the survey.

The report says live service developers would rather have faster content releases.

"Across the industry, live service teams reported their ideal production schedules as weekly to biweekly for live ops cadences and biweekly to monthly for game content updates. In the context of game development, which typically spans multiple years, live service production schedules are moving at breakneck speed."

A life-long and avid gamer, William D'Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012 and taking over the hardware estimates in 2017. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel. You can contact the author on Twitter @TrunksWD.

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shikamaru317 (on 02 February 2024)

If this is anywhere near accurate, I don't know how much gaming I have left in me. I can count the number of actually good live service games from studios who formerly made singleplayer games, on one or two hands most likely. I don't want to live in a world where most of the singleplayer games have content which was once included on the disc as part of the game's price tag, content like costumes and new game+, is instead sold to us as paid DLC in order to fund longer dev cycles and crazy AAAA budgets.

Studios need to get back down to basics, get the development budgets and dev cycles back under control again, before this whole industry snowballs into collapse. Not every game needs to have AAAA levels of detail like TLOU 2 with it's realistic clothing drying and wetness system or RDR2 with it's shrinking horse balls in cold weather, resulting in $300m+ budgets and development cycles of 6+ years. Get back down to basics please, Remedy made Alan Wake 2 in just over 4 years on a combined development + marketing budget of just 70m Euros, and it's currently 3rd place behind Baldur's Gate 3 and Zelda in total GOTY award wins last year, more AAA studios should learn from them.

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JRPGfan shikamaru317 (on 03 February 2024)

This makes me think of the pre-rendered backgrounds of the PS1 rpgs. It was pretty and quick... Maybe devs need to stop putting so much time into things that some game styles can actually live without.

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Jumpin shikamaru317 (on 03 February 2024)

Jesus… well, that was a hilariously overdramatic reaction.

First, just because a company does live service games doesn’t mean they don’t do other types of games as well. For example, live services have been a part of Nintendo since 2006 and Sony since the 1990s. And while the number of live service games has increased, so to has the volume of games that aren’t live service.

Furthermore, “AAAA” budgets (whatever the fuck that means) has little to do with live service games. The vast majority of live service games are indie titles or developed by smaller studios. And these “$300m+ budgets and development cycles of 6+ years with detail like TLOU 2” that you are worried “every game needs to have” is a reality that exists only in your head—only a handful of games have ever approached (let alone met) your criteria. And there’s no indication that this will ever be anything other than a rare occurrence in the future.

There are LOADS of games released every month that are as basic as NES and SNES games. The industry isn’t on the verge of snowballing into collapse. On the contrary, it’s bigger, more diverse, and more successful than ever before. You’re freaking out over issues that aren’t happening.

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shikamaru317 Jumpin (on 03 February 2024)

Live service games in those days, and live service games now, are two entirely different things. In those days live service basically meant releasing expansion packs for your game that were truly significant in size. Then it changed to slightly smaller but usually slightly cheaper story DLC's. Then came costume DLC's, where oftentimes costumes were removed from planned base game content to be sold back to gamers as paid DLC. Next came lootboxes, with developers basically running online gambling by charging people for lootboxes and giving those boxes really low odds of unlocking the most popular costumes (lootboxes thave thankfully largely disappeared thanks to laws in certain countries that were passed to stop predatory microtransactions). Then after the devs lost lootboxes, they decided increase the pricing for cosmetic DLC's instead, with some developers charging $20 or more for single costumes. Next came season passes, where people are spending $10-20 each season for a pass that gives them mostly cosmetics the more they play said game that season.

Now, in 2024, we are sitting in a spot where nearly all live-service games are either fully multiplayer, or a singleplayer game that has had features like co-op and randomized map seasonal content added in to encourage people to buy paid costume DLC or season passes. Meanwhile development time of a live-service/GaaS game is now over 5 years according to this survey of developers that the article is about, compared to 2-3 years for a traditional game. So developers are releasing fewer but worse games essentially, and trying to monetize those worse games long term to fund those longer development cycles.

I never said the entire industry was snowballing towards a crash, I said the AAA industry is. Nearly every gamer I have talked to sees it coming, you seem to be the only one who doesn't. A decade ago the average AAA took less than 4 years to make and cost around $70m in combined development and marketing budget, with some of the more expensive ones topping $100m and the most expensive "AAAA" one's like GTA V costing over $200m. Now, this generation so far, we are seeing more and more AAA games that take 5, 6, or even more than 6 years to make. We don't get official information on many games' budgets, but the budgets we have seen on recent games paint a clear picture, AAA budgets have skyrocketed in just the last few years. We recently learned that nearly all of Sony's AAA games have budgets of $200m or more nowadays, with Spider-Man 2 and the upcoming Wolverine game each costing over $300m, and Sony has set away nearly $400m for Spider-Man 3's budget. CD Projekt spent $81m making Witcher 3 in 2015, Cyberpunk in 2020 cost them over 3x that much, while they spent another $130m repairing the game post-launch, amounting in a total budget of over $440m for Cyberpunk 2077 as of late 2023. Square Enix spent $170m on their failed Avengers game back in 2020. Microsoft reportedly spent $160m making Halo 5 in 2015 and more than twice that on the more recent Halo Infinite. Square reportedly spent $140m on part one of FF7 Remake, with the upcoming part 2 likely costing even more than that, since it is remaking a much larger chunk of the original game.

So, we know that AAA dev times are getting longer and longer, we know that AAA studios are growing larger and larger, which by extension means the budgets are getting larger and larger because more years of employee salaries and more total salaries are being factored into those budgets. Meanwhile the publishers raised the price of AAA games to $70 and faced major backlash from the move, with many now intentionally waiting on sales to buy games instead of buying day one at full price as result. Publishers know they can't get away with raising to $80 again so soon, so that means they have to trying and fund those larger budgets somehow, and the only option they have left to fund these huge AAA budgets now is making their games live-service as leaving them chock full of predatory microtransactions. The bubble is going to pop soon if the AAA devs don't get back to basics and learn to shrink their studio sizes, development times, and budgets, back to the levels where they were in the past.

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xl-klaudkil Jumpin (on 04 February 2024)

The truth is hard.

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Shtinamin_ (on 02 February 2024)

Gone are the days of simple classic games that release with 100% of the content at launch.

  • +8
JackHandy Shtinamin_ (on 03 February 2024)

I vividly remember reading a letter that a reader had sent into EGM, about twenty-two years ago. In it, the person was expressing concern that the then rise in online gaming would lead to a decline in single-player games, as well as the destruction of the industry as a whole. The editor assured him/her that it would not... but here we are. Yes, the game industry is alive and thriving, but it sure isn't the same industry that it was then. It's sort of like an entirely new industry, built on the ashes of the old one.

  • +5
Mystro-Sama (on 02 February 2024)

Yikes. What the fuck happened to the industry?

  • +6
Leynos Mystro-Sama (on 03 February 2024)

Horse armor. It's been circling down the drain since.

  • +4
xl-klaudkil Leynos (on 04 February 2024)

I remmember that

  • 0
JRPGfan (on 04 February 2024)

UPDATE: Author choose to lable ANY game that got a update, as a GAAS type game.
"30% plan to release regular update cadences for their games...." Thats probably somewhere around where the real number should have been. Ei. The title is missleading and was picked for clickbait.

  • +5
LivncA_Dis3 (on 03 February 2024)

Trash trash trash

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Trentonater (on 02 February 2024)

This likely comes down to the broad definition of live service really. Every single fighting game is considered a live service now because they are supported by consistent updates. and that's just the standard expectation now.

  • +4
The Fury Trentonater (on 02 February 2024)

Cyberpunk got the award for 'Best Ongoing Game.' at the Adver... I mean Game Awards. Would it be classed as a service game because it's had ongoing updates to keep people playing and released DLC? The others in the category were Fortnite, Genshin, FF14 and Apex, no doubt any of those are but the single player action RPG?

I guess the idea is retention, to keep customers involved in your economy. This could be from F2P Battle Pass shooters to mobile microtransaction filled crap but also includes the long running support of a single player game to entice sales.

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VAMatt (on 03 February 2024)

Keep in mind that they're not saying 95% of games are live service. They're saying 95% of studios. Many studios are support studios, doing work for the primary developers. It also doesn't say that the entire studio is working on live service. It just means that some portion of 95% of studios are working on live service games.

That seems very believable to me, especially when you consider that all games that receive post-launch content, even if it's just something like a few cosmetics over the course of a year, are considered live service.

  • +3
Leynos (on 03 February 2024)

cat vomiting sound

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JRPGfan (on 03 February 2024)

I guess this means the end of gameing for me... lol. I like story driven one and done games. If I want something persistant, its a mmo. For me, games are like reading a good book or movie. I want there to be a end to it, but I also want it to be long enough to have world building, character development, good story telling ect. I enjoy RPGs alot, pref. turn based ones. This is so counter to what "live service games" are..

  • +2
NobleTeam360 (on 03 February 2024)

Eh, idk. This percentage doesn't seem right to me. What do they even classify as "live service"? Lots of SP games get content updates and DLC/expansions, are they counted as live service?

Also, are they counting mobile devs in this? This could explain the extremely high percentage because I don't believe for a second PC+Console gaming is anywhere close to 95%

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Mr Puggsly NobleTeam360 (on 03 February 2024)

Exactly, the term might be too broad. Games can greatly benefit from long term support as well, even single player offline games.

Also, we can just ignore games that are doing practices we don't want to support. Frankly, I don't even play games when they release anymore. Because they always get better post updates, patches, etc.

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xl-klaudkil (on 04 February 2024)

Well. Goodbye modern gaming.

  • +1
DroidKnight (on 02 February 2024)

Cyberpunk 2077 identifies as a live service game.

  • +1
JRPGfan DroidKnight (on 03 February 2024)

I think thats pushing it.

  • +1
The Fury (on 02 February 2024)

Haha, very much doubt. Do they not know how many small developers there are? 95% of big publishers maybe.

  • +1
EpicRandy (on 02 February 2024)

I wonder what is their definition of live service here. we sometime see games with DLC and /or expansion get bunched together and described as 'Live service'.
Anyway sad. Live service are a cannibalistic tribes in the gaming world, they prey on each other until very few or a single title in each category can claim success.

  • +1
pikashoe (on 02 February 2024)

Well shit

  • +1
JackHandy (on 03 February 2024)

The times they are a chaaaaangin'

  • 0
Darashiva (on 03 February 2024)

And most of them are going to die off within a year of release, because the live service ecosystem just cannot sustain more than a handful of titles at best at any one time. They just require too great a time investment for anyone to devote time to multiple live service games, and the ones people are going to play are games that have the most players.

Everyone wants their share of the profits games like Fortnite are producing, but the vast majority of these titles are just going to fail and be forgotten in a matter of years, if not months. It's no different from back when every other game studio saw the massive success of World of Warcraft in the MMO space, and rushed to create their own competitors. WoW is still around, while nearly all of those other games are either Final Fantasy XIV, dead, or gone free-to-play.

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LudicrousSpeed (on 03 February 2024)

This number is nonsense

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ClassicGamingWizzz (on 03 February 2024)

That is some BS percentage, we got a state of play that had lots of single player games, microsoft have lots of single player games coming in too.

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S.Peelman (on 03 February 2024)

I don’t believe that.

  • 0
tslog (on 02 February 2024)

Another Gaming collapse is incoming, and Publisher/developers are the most to blame. Developers are less to blame compared to Publishers & platform holders, but they deserve plenty of blame too,

  • 0
hellobion2 (on 02 February 2024)

Well I don’t not expect it to be that high of a percentage

  • 0
Garrus (on 02 February 2024)

i didn't mind when it was a free extra

you got call of duty, and you got the online component

you got mass effect 3 awesome, and the multiplayer

live service is not the same anymore

  • -1