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What is a live service game? Everything you need to know

If you class yourself as a gamer, you’ve probably encountered the phrase ‘live service game’, but what does it actually mean? 

We’ve put together this guide to explain the concept of a live service game, while also specifying which games fall under this category. And if you’ve got any additional questions, please feel free to give us a message on Twitter

What is a live service game?

A live service game is a game that sees a constant stream of new content added post launch, and is purposefully designed to keep you playing years after launch. This is unlike traditional single-player games, which can be completed in a set number of hours. 

Such content can vary drastically. For example, the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends introduce new cosmetics, weapons and multiplayer maps on a seasonal basis – you even sometimes get an entire new game mode. And then you have the likes of Destiny 2 and World of Warcraft, which feature numerous expansion packs with new missions and story content. 

destiny 2

However, a game needs a substantial amount of post-release content to be considered a ‘live service’. The Witcher 3 received two expansion packs and 16 DLC, but is still not considered a ‘live service’ game. 

Live service games are quite often free to play, with players only expected to pay for the optional expansions, microtransactions or seasonal passes.

But this isn’t always the case, with many examples requiring an upfront fee such as Marvel’s Avengers and Sea of Thieves, while also putting additional content behind a paywall. There are also some games, mostly MMOs like World of Warcraft, that require you to sign up to a subscription in order to play. 

Live service games are a controversial subject, as game studios have been accused of using predatory methods to convince gamers to spend money, with the likes of loot boxes compared to gambling.

Sea of Thieves

Many gamers have also accused some live service games of providing a pay-to-win advantage to those willing to spend the extra money, making multiplayer matches unfair and unbalanced. To combat this, multiple games have ensured that gamers can only purchase cosmetics that do not impact the gameplay. 

There have been many successful examples of recent live service games, with Fortnite the most obvious. But there have also been some colossal failures, with Bioware being forced to cancel development for Anthem two years after launch.

If you’ve got any more questions about live service games, feel free to reach us by sending a message over to our Twitter account.

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