why are video games moving from standalone titles to to Microtransaction heavy models or Free-To-Play models?

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Some background; I don’t follow video games. I used to a lot. But the last video game I played and really, really enjoyed was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. During recent searches, I’ve understood that although titles like Overwatch, Fortnite, The Division etc are very popular, there’s still a bunch of quality single player games being made.

My question is primarily, why are video game companies moving towards this model?

Is there any inherent benefit to it? How do the corporations pushing these games such as EA or Activision (with Black Ops 4 going that route recently, if I’m not mistaken) benefit? Do the gamers benefit in any way?

And also, are there any changes in demographics of gamers? Do people prefer these “Games As A Service” as they’re calling it, over more traditional models?

Any information will be SUPER helpful. Thank you!

In: Economics

Simple, they make more money. If you want to think about why a company doesn’t anything, the answer is to make more money.

Money.

It turns out that if you make a free to play game with microtransactions, most players will pay nothing or only a small amount, but some people will get addicted and spend hundreds or even thousands on it.

Because there’s no upfront cost to start playing the game, there’s the potential to have far more players than a traditional game. So even if most of those barely spend anything on it, there are enough “whales” (actual industry term) who pay more than enough to make up for that.

It doesn’t really benefit gamers, it’s not meant to. It’s meant to make money.

From the company’s point of view, a Live-Service model is encouraged because it makes it so that the game has much more longevity than a traditional game, which means they can make money with season passes, DLC and micro-transactions on top of the initial sale, and they only have to make updates for that one game instead of making a brand new game. Take Rainbow Six Siege for an example: instead of making a new game every year or two, which is very costly and presents significant risks, they can introduce updates to the already-existing game and keep making money out of it.

From the player’s perspective, a live-service game provides the benefit of being able to buy a single game and playing it for years, depending on the monetization model, without having to spend any extra money. (All content in Rainbow Six Siege, save certain cosmetic items, can be purchased with currency earned by playing matches). This is just my opinion, but live-services with a focus on multiplayer tend to do better, due to the continuous play and stable playerbase.

The main disadvantage of this type of game, for the company, is that they’re long-term investments made to last at least 2 years or so, meaning that if it doesn’t do well on the initial two months, it’s very unlikely that it’ll make a turn for the better. Rainbow Six Siege was an exception, it had a bad launch, but made a comeback due to its unique gameplay and constant updates. Needless to say, it’s a very big risk. Anthem and Fallout 76 are examples of live-services that didn’t do well at launch, and don’t seem like they’ll make a comeback, so their plans and roadmaps for future content are crippled, and the more affected they get, the less likely the game is to turn over, so it’s a vicious cycle until the game loses support.

Companies exist to make money.

Companies have learned to sacrifice art for profit

What you will see is complacency as generations of gamers become accustomed to these practices.

Capitalism.

Simple. You make much more money over a longer period of time all while doing much less work. It’s a positive in every way for the game companies. If you manage to make a game with micotransactions and loot boxes that becomes popular you have then hit the jackpot. As long as that game stays popular it will basically print money and depending on the popularity it could stay that way for years while only requiring minor updates to keep people coming back.

Compare that with the traditional model for games. Its very expensive very time consuming and very risky with an extremely small payoff window. They spend millions and years making the game. Even more money to market the game sometimes more than they spent on the actual game these days. Then once the game releases they literally only get 2 to 3 weeks to make the bulk of the money they will see from the project. Sales for most games fall off steeply after that and they pretty much have to start planning the next game. Maybe they get a bump from an expansion or a sale for example but then it falls flat again.

It’s easy to see why the game industry is going the way it is. Now is there a benefit for gamers. Technically yes if theres a game you like that’s using the service model than that it would be continuously updated and iterated on which means a steady flow of content for the game you like which is nice. The fact is though that most of that stuff is gonna be locked behind micrc transactions and they stuff they add to these games is usually bread crumb items like a new skin not a genuine new addition to the game. Imo it benefits the gamer very little and the game industry tremendously.