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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Live Service Games Are Exhausting

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MultiVersus is closing its doors – well, early access doors – on June 25, and there’s been a lot of discourse about this move by Warner Bros. Games and Player First Games. I think the general consensus is that everyone sort of forgot MultiVersus was an Early Access game as it’s had not one but two seasons since it launched.

A lot of games recently have been coming out as Open Beta, Beta, or Early Access, and they just kind of stay that way. DayZ is the biggest example I can think of; the game had been in alpha for five years but just came out as a beta in 2018. Now, this isn’t a great example since you can’t buy a battlepass or cosmetics for DayZ, and MultiVersus has a battlepass and cosmetics system in place, but you can still purchase DayZ to play this beta.

Generally, if an early access game does close down for a bit, it’s not a big deal. But MultiVersus’ early access really appeared to be a fully released game. There were more than a handful of tournaments for MultiVersus at big competitions like EVO, and it even won a Game Award for Best Fighting Game 2022.

When MultiVersus launched in early access, it appeared to continue with that early access title until it was ready with its full release – sort of like how Fortnite went from open beta to a fully released game. But it turns out that’s not the case, and it’s frustrating to see players lose a game they’ve been playing openly without worry, and also been putting money into.

During the time that MultiVersus is going to be completely offline, players will not be able to get a refund for anything they’ve purchased in the game. Their progress and cosmetics will transfer over when the game is fully released in 2024, but for now, these things are just left up in the air. You can still play the game offline (so it can still be a part of in-person tournaments) and have access to your characters, cosmetics, and the training room.

MultiVersus going offline to improve the quality of the game, netcode, and content cadence is great for casual players who may want to try the game in the future, but it’s not so great for the players who were already dedicated to the game. As someone who plays a lot of free-to-play, live-service games, I am pretty tired of seeing games go free-to-play with the general live-service battlepass system.

Of course, there are some games that have found success with this format, like Warzone, Apex Legends, and Fortnite, and I don’t think that should change. Those formulas work really well for games that have repetitive formats like battle royales. There needs to be regular content drops with new limited time modes (or permanent modes), cosmetic updates, and other seasonal events to keep the game feeling fresh so it’s not so repetitive.

MultiVersus going offline is not so great for the players who were already dedicated to the game.


Yes, I did not include Overwatch 2 as I don’t feel it fits that live-service model very well right now. I’m glad it’s free-to-play but locking characters behind a battlepass is pretty frustrating. I understand there are other ways to unlock that character, like with specific challenges, but it’s not as fast as just unlocking them through the battlepass purchase.

For example, Overwatch’s latest character, Ramattra, was released extremely strong and was available to play in competitive mode. It honestly felt like if you did not have a tank on your team who had unlocked Ramattra, you were bound to lose, or at least have a high likelihood of losing. So you feel pressured to unlock that character the fastest way possible, which is through buying the battlepass. But this makes an uneven battleground for players who may not have the time to grind to unlock new characters or have the money to purchase a battlepass.

Live-service games are fine if the formula can be hit just right with consistent content drops, changes in balancing, and a good offering of cosmetics. But a lot of games now struggle with that cadence, which often leads to the sunsetting of those games. I liked Knock-Out City and I know a lot of people loved Rumbleverse, but they’re part of the unsuccessful crowd that could not figure out a good rhythm to updating the game.

I’ve also personally gotten really tired of trying to keep up with all of the live-service games I have attachments to, especially if I have multiple battlepasses to finish. Keeping up with Apex’s 100-tier battlepass and Warzone’s own 100-tier battlepass is difficult enough and I’m starting to feel that live-service fatigue to the point where I don't want to get involved in yet another free-to-play live service game. It would likely be the same content for a month or two and I’ll fall off and then come back once a major update is through.

I’m lucky enough to have other games to play and cover for work so I’m never tied down to one thing. It’s just sad to realize that I’m growing more detached from these games that I genuinely like just due to their content format. I will say though that it’s nice to know that the base game stays unchanged and is great to come back to when I’m wanting to revisit it (like battle royale formats).

MultiVersus Characters

I feel like we’re at a point in gaming where a majority of players are also very tired of live-service formats and we just want to play a game we’ll enjoy. The fact that most live-service games are free is great, since anyone can play, but the games often just become a bit stale after major season updates and there’s not a lot to make you want to play consistently. And expecting content updates regularly has become a big complaint with the community, especially with live-service games since that’s what the game relies on to stay fresh and replayable.

MultiVersus going offline until next year is a bold move and I’m not sure it’ll pay off. Tekken 8 will be coming out and there really won’t be much space for discussion around MultiVersus with it being basically unplayable for months. The only game that I feel can afford to take a day or two off (or a week at most) is Fortnite because they have really honed in on what makes a live-service game great and how to handle major season turnovers quickly with the least bit of hassle.

The people behind MultiVersus have said they plan to make some major overhauls, so it’s possible it could come back with a big, renewed interest, but they still have to face the issue of setting the pace on when they’ll update their content. This was a pretty big problem in Season 2 where there were very little updates and the player activity dropped 99% on the PC version.

I understand there’s a good market for live-service games and it could be more profitable than a fully-released game with a set price that players can purchase once and be done with. But there’s also value in having a full game at launch that players can rely on to be ready to play. Updates can still be provided with fully released games and reduces pressure to constantly drop new content for devs and players all around.

Hopefully MultiVersus has a great launch, but the decision to take it completely offline really had me thinking about how I feel about live-service games and I’m definitely fatigued with them. There’s certainly a marketplace for free-to-play live-service games to live in the gaming world, but I feel not many developers have been able to find that balance. I genuinely hope the team behind MultiVersus takes this time to consider the game’s future and make a full comeback. But I also want to remind developers there’s nothing wrong with releasing a game with a set price instead of going the free-to-play live-service route.

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