In the earlier days of Prima Games (by earlier days I mean before GAMURS bought us), we had a segment on our weekly stream called GaaS Me Up in which we mostly talked about Final Fantasy XIV. For years it has seemed like Games as a Service would be the dominant force in gaming, but that’s definitely not the case today. Just this week a big list of GaaS hopefuls had shutdowns announced, from the well-received Knockout City to even Epic Games sunsetting Rumbleverse. It’s kind of alarming, but not really.
Related: My Personal 2022 Game Awards for Videogame Excess and Excellence
I have a few theories on why so many games are shutting down so quickly, and I tried to do my best to squish them down to a list of five. Because I don’t want to spend more time on this topic than I have to. I’ve already wasted so much of my limited time on this planet buying battle passes I never finished. Shout outs to MultiVersus season two, which I don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of completing. Anyway, here are five reasons GaaS games are dissolving, and they certainly aren’t turning into breathable air.
Everyone’s Broke and Busy
By definition, a “Game” as a “Service” is designed to keep your attention indefinitely. These are meant to be “forever games,” titles you come back to over and over. That’s why many of them are free to play, with the commitment or subscription-style monetization models backing that up. But if players are supposed to play a game forever, how are they supposed to play multiple games forever?
Videogames work because you can play one for a while, then put it down and move onto another one. Just like books, movies, music, so on and so forth. You can’t trap someone in a movie theater and demand they watch Marvel movies over and over again… wait that’s a bad analogy. You can’t expect people to just sit and be satisfied with one thing on the level games need to be sustainable.
COVID Made Executives Stupider
The tech world is seeing tens of thousands of layoffs right now, as shareholders and executives are scrambling to understand why infinite money isn’t cascading from the skies. For some reason when the pandemic happened and many people were buying more videogames because they couldn’t do other stuff, everyone thought that would be permanent. The obvious thing happened when vaccines came out, and now the sky is falling.
AAA, GaaS, Pick One
I’m thoroughly convinced you can’t have a game be a massive, AAA blockbuster and a GaaS forever experience at the same time. It’s impossible to maintain. Look at Anthem, look at Marvel’s Avengers, look at Halo Infinite, yadda yadda. Games of that level of scale and fidelity can’t have content cranked out enough to support something so top-heavy the same way Fortnite can.
China Partnerships Backfired
This is actually a legitimate, serious point and not just weird anti-China jingoism. A lot of the service-style games were super embedded in China, often with Chinese developers and huge audiences over there pumping tons of new money into games. But then a lot of regulation weirdness happened as well as a nationwide effort to curb issues with gaming addiction in young people. This led to a lot of business deals collapsing due to things like massive delays in game approvals. We saw that play out in ugly ways such as Blizzard dropping support of nearly all its games in China, and whatever went sour with EA’s mobile Apex Legends port.
They’re All the Same Damn Game
That’s reductive for the sake of hyperbole of course but the fact is so many GaaS titles are chasing the exact same audience with nearly identical structures and gameplay hooks it’s a miracle this didn’t happen sooner. How many times can people play a shooter or action game that has them chasing down loot, grinding XP so a little bar of trinkets can fill up, and do it over and over again when the cycle resets in a month or two? And why are so many of them so god damn purple? Stop ruining my favorite color for me, videogames! Marvel Snap is a perfect example of this, both the “success from standing out” and “ruining purple” parts.
Related: A Player Has Somehow Reached The Current Maximum Collection Level in Marvel Snap
We live in a world now in which Netflix, godforsaken Netflix of all things, is starting to crash and burn under its own ballooned weight. Of course, the same thing is happening to GaaS games, and the bubbles are popping faster because the stakes are so much higher in the games industry. I just hope some kind of balance can be found now that the gold rush seems to be winding down.