With the recent release (and success) of Apex Legends, there’s a firm footing for “games as a service” as a monetary model. In particular where that model is not based on buying vertical power (e.g. FIFA) but instead meant on selling horizontal flavor (e.g. cosmetics). I should add that this model only applies if you’re dramatically exceeding expectations. If you still manage to break the previous year’s profits, yet below expectations, expect people to get fired.
I would say this is the flavor of the month, but it’s really hard to argue the sheer market penetration these games are now seeing. UO was a “huge success”, followed by EQ, then completely dwarfed by WoW. We went nearly 10 years trying to find a WoW killer (which, as expected, ended up being WoW itself). Fortnite makes more money in a day than WoW makes in a month (purely on subs – the game services are a whole other bag).
But similar to MMORPGs, today’s games are all competing for the same eyeballs. And there’s only so much time in a day to be spent, and people follow the shiny. Fortnite is on season 7 – after 1 year. WoW in contrast is entering season 2 since the launch of BfA in August. If there isn’t new content, new material, then sales go away and people get saturated with what’s present, moving to the next thing.
From all that I can see, Apex Legends isn’t bringing new gamers to the table, simply pulling folks from Fortnite/PUBG, and the curious few wondering what all the hubbub is about. What this means is that it’s pulling money from a limited pool. This is a problem if a company is directly competing against itself – but these 3 games are from different groups. Mind you, it will take a month or two for them all to get a similar ping system.
Which brings me to Anthem. While in terms of direct competition it’s closely linked to Warframe, Destiny 2, and Division 2. (Quick side bar – the demo for Division 2 is getting nothing but positive press. It would appear they learned a ton of lessons and are applying them. Too bad Bungie didn’t do that with Destiny 2.) If we look at “games as a service” competition then Anthem is competing with the big ones (in relative size):
- Apex Legends
- Rainbow 6 Siege
- Destiny 2
- For Honor
- Sea of Thieves
- Monster Hunter World
Many of which have little to no barrier of entry. Warframe and MHW are quite insane in terms of what they give for “free”. Twitch streams are not the only metrics, but damn.
Again, this isn’t to say that Anthem won’t have success, but tempered with reality here. It’s not like there are 6m people sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting to play only this game. And if they do manage to get 6m eyeballs on this in the first quarter, what kind of insane release schedule is needed to keep those eyeballs? We’re in perfect storm territory here.
And then what happens for the “next big thing”? You have to believe that all the big companies are licking their lips looking at the insane income from this model. But this isn’t luck, this is a huge level of effort. There were dozens of MOBAs, only 3 left. There are Battle Royale modes everywhere, but only 3 that really count today. WoW’s only true competition has been FF14 – and it needed a complete rebuild to do so.
It’s really something to watch all this develop, and in such a small timeframe. Practically impossible to keep up with the news, let alone the developers trying to play guessing game on what will or will not work. I don’t see how this is sustainable in a glut of online games.
Fingers crossed that BioWare has the magic sauce.