Games as a Service (GaaS): Live Service Games
Games as a Service, or GaaS has become the dominant model for video games over the past few years. As the industry has shifted towards digital distribution and online multiplayer games, developers are finding new ways to make money. This has led to a paradigm shift in game development, where games are now designed with live service in mind.
What is Games as a Service (GaaS)?
Games as a service is a gaming business model where games are operated as a live service. These games offer ongoing online content and feature updates to keep players engaged. Some games run in seasons in which specialized content and rankings are created for a specific amount of time. They are typically offered through monthly or annual subscriptions, with players paying a fee to access a particular title. These models are also supported by microtransactions, in which players can purchase in-game items and upgrades.
How is a GaaS title different from a traditional game?
GaaS games are different from traditional games in several ways:
- They are designed to be played over a long period, with new content and features added regularly. This keeps players coming back to the game and also offers more value for their money.
- GaaS titles typically have more complex multiplayer systems than traditional games. Player lobbies, timed and seasonal events, private chats, and cross-platform play allow for a deeper level of play, and support of player communities.
- GaaS games are usually operated by gaming companies, rather than being developed and published by a single studio. This allows for a more continuous development cycle, as well as providing players with customer support and other services.
What games use the GaaS model?
Although the GaaS model typically uses some sort of subscription-based access to content, there are also games using a free-to-play model that is supported by in-game transactions. Some games that use the GaaS model include:
- Rocket league
- World of Warcraft
- Rainbow Six Siege
- Apex Legends
- Sea of Thieves
- Destiny 2
- Forza Horizon 4
Pros and cons for gamers and developers
The games as a service model has exploded in popularity in recent years, with more and more games adopting this approach. This model offers several advantages for both players and developers, but it also has some downsides that should be considered.
Pros for gamers
- Some subscriptions allow access to a large library of games for a set price.
- GaaS games are always kept up to date with the latest content and features, so you'll never have to worry about your game becoming outdated or missing out on new content releases. Because of these updates, they offer players more value and a longer lifespan than traditional games.
- Titles often offer much more comprehensive and immersive gameplay experiences.
- Games are offered at a more affordable price point. Rather than having to pay for a full-priced game upfront, you can usually subscribe to a GaaS title for a monthly or yearly fee. Although this benefit depends on the title, it can make it much easier to budget for your gaming expenses.
Cons for gamers
- Although GaaS titles offer financial flexibility, they often require a continuous subscription to access certain content, which can be expensive, especially if you want to subscribe to multiple titles.
- Some gamers find certain features expensive and prefer to buy games outright. Also, some games require players to purchase the game and then subscribe to online services giving the feeling of paying twice for the same game.
- Gamers generally dislike microtransactions as they feel companies are charging them for every little detail.
- Casual gamers regularly describe a “pay to win” scenario for some games, as players who are willing to pay more for features gain certain advantages or can level up faster than players who do not.
Pros for developers
- Creates a constant stream of revenue. Unlike traditional games, which are sold as a one-time purchase.
- Can use a subscription model or microtransactions to keep players engaged and spending money over time. This can be extremely lucrative for developers, as it allows them to continue earning revenue from their game long after its initial release.
- The game can be constantly updated and improved based on player feedback. This allows developers to keep their games feeling fresh and relevant, and also helps to address any issues that players may be having. Because of this, GaaS games often have a much longer lifespan than traditional games.
- GaaS gives developers more freedom to experiment and tweak their games. In the traditional model, developers are under pressure to release a perfect game on day one. This can lead to compromises and cut corners, as developers rush to meet deadlines.
- The constant revenue stream associated with the GaaS model can help finance future projects.
Cons for developers
- It can be difficult to keep up with the constant updates and content releases. Players typically expect immediate fixes or patches.
- It is difficult to keep players engaged over an extended period. Without constant updates and creative new content, players may eventually become bored and move on to other games.
- Because GaaS games typically use microtransactions, there is always the potential for players to feel like they are being nickel-and-dimed. If not managed properly, this could lead to negative reactions and reviews from the player base.
Are games as a service here to stay or just a fad?
The games as a service model has been around for a while now, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Games like Destiny 2 and Fortnite have shown that there is a lot of money to be made in this model.
However, while games such as World of Warcraft have been around for years, some have not been as successful with this model. Anthem for example was released with much fanfare, but it quickly fizzled out due to a lack of content.
The games as a service model is quickly becoming the industry standard for how games are developed, marketed, and delivered to gamers. This model seems to be here to stay. There are too many benefits for developers and publishers to ignore. There’s no doubt that in the short term, the GaaS model will become more prevalent as the industry moves away from traditional models of game development and sales. By allowing players access to a constant stream of new content, live service games will provide an always-online experience that is designed for social interaction and customer responsiveness. Likewise, live service games continue to grow in popularity with gamers. Players recognize the advantages of constant updates and extended value for their favorite games. Furthermore, the rise of esports and online gaming platforms such as Twitch has contributed to the increased popularity of live service titles. With so many ways to play and watch, there’s something for everyone in today’s gaming world, making the games as a service model simply just the evolution of modern gaming.
Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.