Is Game-as-a-service already worn out?
Is it a bad word, albeit hyphenated?
And what does GaaS even mean?
I feel like we “the industry”, and we, “the players” have been inundated with all the new buzzworthy trend words like GaaS, BaaS, DevOps, Live ops, server-side, cloud, back-end, etc, etc...and they all have different definitions depending on who you’re talking to.
The simple matter is this: whatever you call it, live games are the standard now. Whether it’s a battle royale, or a wholly single player production.
And how do we know?
Look at the charts.
It’s not just the young players that are engulfed in online gaming, it’s everyone. You play Words with Friends? You’re an online gamer. You play Red Dead Redemption 2 single player? You’re an online gamer. We can go on and on.
Every single video game production across any and all platforms will have some sort of online, connected components moving forward. The only exception might be a micro-console or a boutique console like the new Intellivision aimed for family couch gaming. Even if it’s a single player experience like Metro Exodus, or a Tomb Raider game, their needs for Account Authentication, Achievements, and Telemetry are real.
But going beyond single player, the spectrum of online multiplayer needs is as wide as the Pacific Ocean. The back-end features that power Overwatch vary greatly to those powering Fortnite. And questions arise in any production team when embarking on multiplayer productions:
How much can we build on our own? Who can build those features in house? What infrastructure are we hosting on? Are we relying on the platform(s) to handle our back end needs? Do we have the right set of compliance with various governments? How are we going to collect payments even?
These are all GaaS questions.
What are we doing for multiplayer servers? Are we building our own matchmaking? Will we support cross platform, or even cross play? Is it possible to even support BOPA (Buy-Once-Play-Anywhere)? What are we using for friends, chat, clans, or even leaderboards? And where will those leaderboards live?
The list of questions can be extremely long in most cases.
So this brings us back to ‘Games-as-a-Service’. Much like ‘monetization’ was the word of the 2010’s that everyone got sick of, it seems that GaaS is following in the same ilk. And what of “Monetization”? I couldn’t stand to hear that word anymore by 2014.
“How are you going to monetize?”
“What is your monetization strategy?”
“Monetize the players, monetize the platform, monetize monetize monetize.”
And really, we were ‘over it’ because so many people were using monetization in an avaricious way. It was dirty gambling industry tactics associated with the word, and the core industry remained steadfast in sticking to premium and DLC in the face of these “atrocities”. GaaS has guilt by association here, but take a look at the landscape and you’ll see that there are some wonderful games as a service that we all love and don’t feel like we’re getting a constant barrage of monetization schemes. DOTA 2, WoW, Team Fortress 2, Guild Wars 2, Rocket League , Path of Exile, Warframe, Apex, Warzone, and of course, Fortnite. The lines begin to blur between premium and freemium.
This is because the experience with these ongoing, live ops games is a richer, more social, more sticky. Sure there’s still room for God of War, Spiderman, and Pillars of Eternity, but that slice of the play time pie is diminishing among global gamers. And the next generation of these “single player” experiences will most certainly have Game as a Service qualities - like user authentication, telemetry, and general player data. Not for companies to exploit (for the most part, I know that facebook, google and amazon are in games), but for studios to learn more from their players, to understand how to make the next iteration better.
I’m in firm belief that most game creators want the best for their players. And it just might be a fact that a game-as-a-service is not only the best experience for players, but also the more intimate relationship a game studio can have with their players.