EntertainmentGamesThe evolution of online games

The evolution of online games

When digital platforms such as Steam, Playstation Network or Xbox Live first made their appearance, I believe that few or none were able to foresee how the video game business model would evolve in the following years, since thanks to these platforms we could see as the so-called DLC or Downloadable Content began to appear.

These DLCs initially offered us what had always been called game expansions, story extensions to extend the life of the game, but little by little, the developers began to introduce new ways to take advantage of this way of creating new content : aesthetic customizations for our players, new weapons, improvements in our character’s statistics, season passes or the jewel in the crown of controversy, loot or reward boxes.

At first there were not too many problems, these downloadable contents were well planned and were old acquaintances, equal to the typical expansions that we already knew from games like Diablo (Blizzard, 1996), Warcraft 2 (Blizzard, 1995) and even from much earlier, from the time of Populus (Bullfrog, 1989).

The real problem came when many of the developers and producers began to see the high sales that little by little these DLCs were getting. What were added at the beginning became a vital part of the development of these games, being chopped up from the beginning of their design to be able to sell them by parts and get more benefits.

Some of the trickiest cases was that of Asura’s Wrath on PS3 , which in order to see the real end of the game we had to pay 7 dollars / euros. More recently, we have the case of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey , which in order to improve our character at a decent rate, they practically forced us to buy experience from their store using, yes, real money.

The DLC little by little gave rise to a new business model in games, games as a service (GaaS) , in which the studios create a base game and then expand it over time. Some developers have given an example of how these games should be created, such as Digital Dreams with WarFrame . The game started out as the latest attempt by a small studio to stay afloat and has become the role model for how these types of games should be profited. Every so often, the game is updated with huge amounts of free content, at no cost and you only have to pay if you want to customize your character, both his abilities and his appearance. To maintain their code of good conduct, they even removed a virtual pet purchase system that gave them great benefits, but had its users too hooked.

Other studios such as Valve with its Dota 2 or Blizzard with Overwatch have been able to do their homework well and have gained great popularity among users, with inexpensive systems based solely on aesthetic customizations ( skins , stickers, animations …), offering content free (such as Halloween or Christmas events) and entering the world of esports (electronic sports).

The dark side

And as there always has to be a balance between those who do it well and those who do it poorly, on the other side of the scale we have as an example Electronic Arts and Activision, experts in creating controversy with their games, especially with their boxes. of loot . This type of content consists of spending real money to buy boxes that contain add-ons for the game, which can be purely aesthetic or can provide us with elements that directly affect its playability, giving a player the possibility of having a direct advantage over another who don’t spend real money on the game.

These boxes are a danger if they are not well balanced, and although other games already mentioned above also use them, these two developers do not seem to have had any luck using them. EA’s Battlefront 2 had to remove these boxes six months after its release due to the tremendous discomfort it generated among its players, since great inequalities were created between them, giving clear advantages to those who paid compared to those who did not (a Pay 2 Win from manual …). We cannot stop commenting that in a large number of countries of the European Union they have begun to study these reward boxes, since many defend that the line that separates the contents of a video game with gambling , regulated by law, is being diluted .

For its part, Activision’s Destiny created controversy in both its first and second parts by separating the players depending on which expansions they had purchased and which ones they had not, even closing access to content to those who did not have the latest expansions that they had. released to the market. With the loot boxes they also had their confrontations with the community, as it was discovered in the Reddit news aggregator that the game tricked the experience received so that players would get frustrated and want to buy boxes with real money.

Ubisoft couldn’t be missing from the list of big developers wanting their share of the GaaS pie, but for its part it doesn’t seem to be doing it wrong with R6 and For Honor. The approach he has given to the Tom Clancy saga and his IP of combats and assaults is oriented to quarterly seasons, adding new characters and scenarios in each of these seasons, with the detail that sometimes he gives starter kits with what basic to start playing.

It may seem that GasS are a danger to the industry seeing that most of the cases are not as well balanced as they should or do not know how to adapt to the needs and requests of their community, but we must not lose hope in them when we see that others Studies like Digital Dreams have been able to give the perfect balance to this type of video game.

The danger is most run by those of us who prefer single-player games, players who enjoy more with a story that does not force us to be connected online and thus be able to calmly explore the details of the scenarios, the music and the gameplay, something that It is not the norm in online games as you have to have other players in the game and be faster and more frantic. If everything evolves as to date, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will not be the first AAA (games of 10, which stands out in all its sections) to eliminate its campaign mode by switching to the GaaS model.

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