As much as we rail about the overuse of live-service games, lately I’ve been questioning what happens to these projects when they’re shut down. People put years of work into these titles, regardless of their quality, and if they fail to catch on after release, they’re often just shut down and delisted, never to be heard from again.
Rumbleverse, Knockout City, Marvel’s Avengers, Echo VR, CrossfireX… these are all just from the past few weeks, and the list goes on with live-service games that have come and gone, with years’ worth of work just thrown away and forgotten about. And that’s not to mention the high-profile games like Anthem that have come and gone in the past.
While I’m sure a lot of people are more than happy to see these games fail, I’ve often felt that many of these projects have at least an interesting foundation or mechanics that could be utilized elsewhere. It seems a bit crazy to me how willing companies are to just throw away years of work rather than repurposing what’s done into something new.
Some of the games I listed above clearly got the core mechanics right, and it’s a shame that these concepts aren’t taken and made into unique single-player or even local multiplayer experiences. How many other games exist that utilize dodgeball as their core combat mechanic? The only recent one I can think of is Dodgeball Academia, which is a little hidden RPG gem on Steam. Or why not take Rumbleverse’s open world and great brawling mechanics and turn it into a fun platforming adventure game?
When you think about Sony’s upcoming plans that reportedly include 10+ live-service games in development, the question isn’t only if these games are going to be any good — but are they even going to survive? It was only a couple weeks ago that the news dropped that Ubisoft was canceling numerous projects in development, most of which were presumably live-service titles.
Is the Age of Live Service Ending?
The industry seems to finally be coming to the realization that there just isn’t space for all these service games. To keep a live-service game running, it’s a constant grind to build new content to keep new players coming in and maintaining the community that exists.
It seems like apart from a handful of games like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, Destiny, Fall Guys, and a few legacy MMOs, everyone else is figuring out at once that it’s a losing game. When there’s constantly new live-service games pulling for everyone’s attention, all while expecting players to log in on a daily basis, it’s a never-ending game of trying to one-up the competition, and only the biggest service titles are able to keep up with the pace required to compete.
What’s frustrating then is that, when these projects do fail, they are literally delisted from storefronts with no way to access them again unless the developer decides to repurpose the game, and they seldom do.
Rumbleverse has no plan to keep the game available at the time of writing, Marvel’s Avengers will be completely delisted (but playable to existing owners) from storefronts after September 30, and Echo VR is already delisted and shutting down completely in August. The only game from this list to repurpose itself for players is Knockout City with a private server version of the game so its community can continue playing.
It used to be that multiplayer games would no longer receive support or additional content but still be accessible. A small, but passionate community could keep a game’s spirit alive. But now, if one of these live-service projects fails, the game is completely lost to history.
That’s unfortunate for games preservation, the communities who do enjoy these titles, and the developers who just have years of work thrown away.