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The Gaming Industry is making the same mistake as the Streaming Industry…

Have you ever seen a new show on Netflix that looks interesting, but thought to yourself something along the lines of "Netflix will probably just cancel it, so wait to see if it succeeds first" I have been very vocal about my criticism of Big Streaming, and Netflix is the absolute worst offender of the "make 10, cancel 9 approach" to their content. It feels like every day Netflix is cancelling another show. They have thoroughly established a reputation for not following through. They cancel shows that actually make it onto their own "top 10 watched" lists. They've canceled shows so soon after release that people barely had time to get to them. Most recent example is the widely popular 1899. It was critically praised and made it onto their top 10 list. It was cancelled before I even had a chance to finish it.

Netflix is so out of touch with viewers and viewing habits and the self destructive behavior they are doing. Their entire business model is based on KEEPING customers long term, and building a reputation of endless "season 1's" is destroying the reason to have Netflix. I have a long list of Netflix season 1's who's stories I would like finished to the point that I don't trust Netflix with my time. It's a viscious cycle that only Netflix can fix. They need to give shows TIME to aquire audiences. They need to build back trust. They are so out of touch that they came out to say the "never cancelled a successful show". They fail to realize that their own metrics to determine that are unrealistic, unsustainable, and self defeating.

What does all of this have to do with the gaming industry? Netflix is making some huge ling term mistakes but they do have an advantage. They already have our money every month. Sure people are canceling left and right and Netflix is bleeding subscribers (to which Netflix doesn't understand why) but they still are making money on subscriptions.

What does this mean for free to play live service games?

I'm talking about a trend I've started to notice in gaming that seems to be increasing...and I think it could really hurt future games. Studio's need to think long term about what a specific action is teaching gamers. I'm talking about a uptick I have noticed in overly quick sunsetting of games. Online multiplayer games shutting down is always a risk. However in years past I felt like it was much less common for a game to completely shut down quickly, and when it did, it typically felt like years and years went by, it felt like the game had it's time. The one's that shut down quick were one's that just really really failed both critically and commercially and were often unmissed. I never remember being surprised that a game was shutting down. I never went..."Really? That game?"

Today is different. I feel like I'm reporting news of game shut downs far more commonly, and far earlier than ever before, AND they are more and more often from bigger brands. When I started writing this article, I already saw three other major outlets such as the Verge or GameSpot write articles discussing this topic in some way. For some reason...the fall of Live Service just seems upon us.

It's weird because I'm not talking about ending development. For example Marvel's Avengers was a critical and commercial failure that just got news of developending. But that just means there will be no new content or updates. The game remains playable.

I'm talking about a steep rise in games straight up being shut down and made unplayable. The other day I was absolutely shocked by the news that EA was sunsetting Apex Legends Mobile. APEX LEGENDS on Mobile should have been a cash cow. It was even getting more love than the pc/console version. This isn't some unknown IP, this is one of EA's biggest launching on mobile. It was fun. It was good. Players liked it. My only criticism was the lack of cross-progression and cross play.

Today, another title, Knock Out City was announced for shut down. That was a pretty well recieved game that was a PS+ title. This was shocking to many of its fans. I was really disappointed when last year Elyon was announced to shut down so soon after launch. It was a fun fantasy MMO that I really liked, it just was rampant with performance issues and crashes. It needed to be fixed not shut down. Its player count was due to its terrible performance not bad gameplay. If they ever managed to fix it, I would have loved to played it more frequently.

We are seeing the rise of the same year shut down also. It's just seems like more than ever game shut downs have become regular news! Here's a list of just a few of the games that got shut down recently or are shutting down soon:

Recent/Upcoming Shutdowns

  • Apex Legends Mobile (same year shut down announce)

  • Battlefield Mobile

  • Final Fantasy 7 First Soldier

  • Dreadnought

  • Deathverse: Let it Die (same year shut down announce)

  • Babylon's Fall (same year shut down announce)

  • Knock Out City

  • Hyperscape

  • Elyon

  • Rumbleverse (Shut down announced 6 months after release)

  • Crossfire X (Under One Year Shutdown Notice)

  • Oh yeah... and ALL OF GOOGLE STADIA?

Admittedly, some of these titles may have been bad. Some were outright terrible. Look at Babylon's Fall, an absolutely horrible game that never should have released and wont be missed.

The point I'm making is this. Some games charge upfront and we live in a world where AAA studio's think 70$ is a good starting point. But my point with free to play games especially they only get money when players feel like they can INVEST in a game. You aren't paying for the experience. You are paying for in game items that you plan to keep long term. I think distinction is super important. AAA Studio's don't realize the dangerous combo free to play monetized games are with the trend of teaching gamers not to invest in free to play games.

"The message...'Dont invest in our free game because it probably will disappear soon' is a SELF DEFEATING message for free to play / live service titles that is up to the STUDIO to solve, not players."

We as players already deal with more pre-release cancellations than any other entertainment industries. So many games are revealed and just cancelled before release. It is quickly even affecting major IP's; just look at the perfect example of Star Wars games. More Star Wars games have been CANCELLED in the last 10 years than ACTUALLY released. It is insane. If that doesn't lower gamer trust, now we have to worry about rampant game shutdowns AFTER launch. Our time and money is just not safe! It is just "normal" for games to charge 70$ upfront or 20$ on a skin or 20$ on a pass, and then just shut down forever without repercussion. Last year, Square Enix put out one of the worst games I've ever played in my life and had to audacity to charge people 70$ without as much as a "sorry" when they quickly shut it down.

They need to convince ME to spend my money on in game items. They need to convince ME to invest. If enough players have the attitude of "this game may not stick around I won't spend money" than that attitude can cause the lack of funds to keep the game going in the first place. That's why studios absolutely CANNOT let the Netflix affect migrate into gaming. It is up to these studios to promote a message of longevity and COMMITMENT. Maybe that means keeping underplayed games around longer. It might convince players that the likelihood of a new

games evaporating is low. Netflix is failing to convince consumers to spend TIME because Netflix refuses to just COMMIT, why do developers think consumers will invest MONEY without commitment?

In a year where we also saw an ENTIRE GAMING PLATFORM shutdown, ie. Google Stadia, we are also seeing record game shut downs. There's no guarantee by these massive games that their time and money investment will be protected. Google Stadia's failure may not be surprising...but it was that VERY reputation of "Google Cancels Everything" that hindered them. Gamers knew that their games and purchases and progress could evaporate and they didn't TRUST Google to invest long term. Yes, Google and many major developers offered transfer options...but it wasn't promised up front nor 100% perfect.

A consumer is more likely to spend money in a game they feel A) will be around for years and B) they will want to play for years. In game spending in Fortnite or PUBG is astronomical because those games are SOLID. New games from new studios wonder why sometimes they can't replicate that. If consumers don't trust you, they won't invest in your games.

"Pushing out Games Unfinished and/or Giving Up Too Early is ultimately hurting Gamer Good Faith"

I spent money on Apex Legends Mobile to get characters, and I can't get that back. To be honest...I would have thought a Tencent powered mobile version of one of the "Big Four" would have been immune to shut down. If 10$ in Apex Legends of all games isn't safe...why on earth would anyone spend 10$ in a new small niche title? When a new live service launches, especially if it is free, I am tempted to support it if I like it. However, more and more I am scared to invest in increasingly fleeting gear and goods. We live in an era where we are buying digital goods on the good faith that we'll get to keep it long term, and that good faith is quickly evaporating. If enough gamers stop believing that games have a chance to stick around, then support for new titles might grow hard to obtain than ever.


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