Live Service Games - The final nail in the coffin for former single-player masterpieces

29 May 2024, 12:26 / by Fabian Roßbach
Live Service Games - The final nail in the coffin for former single-player masterpieces

What do games like Dishonored, Batman: Arkham City, and Mass Effect 2 have in common? They are legendary single-player experiences created by some of the best developers of their time. But what connects these developers today? A devastating trend: live service games.

The downfall of Arcane, Rocksteady, and BioWare

Arcane Studios, known for masterpieces like Dishonored, suffered a heavy blow with Redfall. Rocksteady, the geniuses behind Batman: Arkham City, stumbled with Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. And BioWare, once celebrated for Mass Effect 2, failed miserably with Anthem. All these titles have one thing in common: they are live service games, and they flopped. But why?

The allure of guaranteed profits

Many developers were lured by the prospect of continuous revenue through live service models. Games like Fortnite and GTA Online seemed like inexhaustible sources of money. However, as it turned out, such successes are the exception, not the rule.

Why do established developers fail with live service games?

Loss of core competencies

One main issue is that developers known for their single-player games are suddenly forced to develop live service titles. Arcane Studios, a master of immersive single-player experiences, had to struggle with an online co-op shooter like Redfall. The developers at BioWare had no experience in developing loot-based live service games, and the result was Anthem, a game that never truly found its identity.

Overwhelm and lack of expertise

Developing and operating live service games requires a different kind of commitment and know-how. It's not just about releasing a great game but continuously providing content to keep players engaged. Many studios simply weren't prepared to meet these demands. Bungie, an experienced studio in the live service games realm, constantly struggles to keep Destiny 2 profitable and player-friendly despite its successes.

The inevitable strain

Continuous updates and resource scarcity

Live service games demand constant updates and innovations to keep the player base entertained. This leads to an endless need for manpower and resources. This constant strain can wear down development teams and be demotivating, especially if they originally set out to work on other types of games.

Lack of community building

Another crucial aspect is the community. A successful live service game requires a dedicated and active community. But if a game is flawed and incomplete from the start or lacks a well-thought-out content plan, it becomes challenging to build a loyal player base.

The long-term consequences for the gaming industry

Loss of talented developers

Many talented developers leave their studios when forced to work on projects they don't support. This leads to a loss of talent that can further impact the quality of future projects. Arcane Austin lost a significant portion of its talented staff, casting doubt on the studio's future.

Negative impact on studio reputation

Studios like BioWare and Rocksteady, once highly esteemed, have significantly tarnished their reputation through their failed live service projects. This can have long-term effects on their ability to successfully finance and market future projects.

Is there a way out?

Some developers have already taken action. Naughty Dog canceled the planned The Last of Us: Factions 2 and focused on what they do best: outstanding single-player experiences. This decision, though painful, could prove wise in the long run.

Success through focusing on strengths

Companies like Capcom and Nintendo show that it's possible to succeed by focusing on their strengths and offering both single-player and selected live service games. This balance is crucial to not lose touch with the core audience.


The gaming industry is in constant flux, but the recent failures of major studios show that blindly following trends like live service games is not always the right path. A healthy balance between innovation and the developers' proven strengths could be the key to long-term success. Studios must learn to recognize their own capabilities and the needs of their community and act accordingly.

The future of the gaming industry depends on developers and publishers making smart, well-thought-out decisions rather than blindly following the next big trend.

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