Last week, several live service games announced that they would be shutting down. These titles included critically acclaimed games like Knockout City and Rumbleverse, releases that had been well received by gamers and the media, but apparently failed to attract a large enough playerbase for their continued existence. worth the ongoing expense. This raises some tough questions about Sony’s strategy.
For those not in the know, the platform holder said it has over ten live service games in production, and those numbers don’t appear to include existing releases like MLB The Show 22 and Gran. Turismo 7. Upon acquiring developer Bungie, it announced it was establishing a live service center of excellence: a division designed to maximize its production in the space.
Live service games differ from traditional releases in that they are meant to be continuously updated and refreshed after release. The gold standard for this style of project is Fortnite, a title that constantly reinvents itself with new seasons, gameplay mechanics, and an ever-changing content store to keep players engaged and, perhaps crucially, spend money.
The risks are high, as it requires constant investment to keep players busy. But the rewards are unmatched: the likes of Genshin Impact are some of the biggest earners on the PS Shop. Sony has gradually seen a significant portion of its annual revenue come from the royalties it earns in addition to microtransaction sales in digital storefronts such as the aforementioned Fortnite Item Store.
And now he wants his own persistent hit. Among the titles in development are reports of a Horizon Forbidden West online spin-off, an all-new Twisted Metal, and Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated The Last of Us Factions. But with players constrained by a limited time, it begs the question: how many live service games can players realistically support?
Sony will have an uphill battle to convert fans of existing titles, like Fortnite and Genshin Impact, to try something new – and it will also require a significant investment to keep them engaged beyond launch day. The platform holder would say its purchase of Bungie for over $3 billion shows it takes strategy seriously, but is there enough oxygen to support all of these titles at once?
The strategy will be supported by the company’s relaxed stance on hardware platforms: PS Studios boss Hermen Hulst has already admitted that live service games could launch on day one on PC as well as PS5 , massively expanding the potential audience it will be able to reach. It also finally explores the lucrative smartphone space, where titles like Genshin Impact perform best.
This means there are millions of players he may be able to reach with this strategy, potentially reducing some of the risk. But with so many other games available, it’s going to take some really special titles to attract players, and as the shutdowns of titles like Knockout City and Rumbleverse prove, sometimes making a good game isn’t even enough.
The platform holder would never admit it publicly, but it’s understood that not every project in its portfolio needs to be a success: if one of its ten titles hits even half as hard than Fortnite, then it will have several billion dollar games in its catalog. But while Sony’s marketing and branding give it an edge over other publishers, its success is by no means guaranteed.
The company employs some incredibly smart people, and it will be well aware of the risks. It’s important to point out that he claims to do all of this without any impact on his more traditional solo release. The company has been successful in expanding its market lately, with HBO’s The Last of Us proving it can successfully adapt its brands to TV, bringing interest back to the PS5.
But with the live services business so erratic and unpredictable, this looks like a real litmus test moment for PlayStation’s current hierarchy. We’ve learned not to bet against the organization lately, but with its past efforts for major multiplayer success being inconsistent at best, it already looks like the company is fighting an uphill battle. Let’s see if he can reach the top.
What do you think of Sony’s live service strategy? Does he have an uphill battle with these projects in development, or do you think he’s charting the right course? Do you think the closure of several well-received titles is cause for concern? Let us know in the comments section below.