Todd Howard, head of Bethesda, said in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, that Fallout 76 does not mark a shift in direction for the company. Said move being one to games that follow a games as a service model. However, on the other hand, Ubisoft Vice President Lionel Raynaud said the company is striving for games that continually serve up content, making a move toward more games as a service titles. It leads to a question of trust. Can we depend upon companies when they make statements declaring they will or won’t continue games as a service titles? And how reliable are games that identify as games as a service?
First, companies are always going to do what is best for their bottom line. I am not saying Howard is lying. Bethesda is a company known for single-player, offline experiences, and I doubt that will change. But, we also can’t discount how many titles the company publishes that fall under the games as a service umbrella. Fallout 76, Quake Champions, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Fallout Shelter all qualify, due to microtransactions and subscriptions. If you want to nitpick, you could argue that Fallout 4 dipped a toe in the water, due to it getting the smaller Workshop packs of add-ons
Ubisoft’s forthright take is the most plausible. They are going to keep doling out content in small doses, both free and paid, to keep people playing and making money. Yes, they are going to have their games fall under the games as a service header. But, with examples like The Division, For Honor, and Rainbow Six Siege, it is easier to tolerate such things. We have examples of what they have done in the past. We see it can mean a mix of free and paid updates. It becomes easier to accept.
Whether we can trust the games themselves is a whole different question with different criteria. It comes down to the kind of game, really. Let’s look at something like Rocket League or the upcoming Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Both of these have a games as a service approach, but in a way that encourages longevity and does not cost people on content. The base game is full of content included in the initial purchase price and can be played without some sort of constant connection to the internet. You can enjoy it, and any optional purchases you happen to make stick with you, even if the servers go down.
With online only games as a service titles, things are much riskier. Investing in something like For Honor would probably be a mistake, because even though it is fun and Ubisoft keeps trying, it is floundering. Putting money into it doesn’t give you something you have for years. Fortnite is another one that, while hot, is not safe. The account locking move Sony pulled, where connecting an Epic Games account to a PlayStation 4 permanently tied it to Sony, is one way a game as a service title can be an issue. The fact that Fortnite is an online game where the fun stops when Epic stops supporting it is another. If a game relies on the internet, a lot more caution is required and distrust appears.
Games as a service will end up being the norm going forward. That means it will be up to players to do their due diligence. Know who the companies making and publishing the game are and see what their track record is like. Look at the kind of game you will be playing and how reliant it is on servers or elements beyond your control. Then, after some research, decide if it is worth spending money on or not.