Live Services – Part 3: The good, the bad and the ugly

For the final part of my three-part series on GaaS (part 1 & part 2) I thought I would list some of the Live Services/GaaS which I think do the whole service model very well. Or indeed very badly.

The good

Path of Exile | Grinding Gear Games
Often the term ‘free to play done right’ is banded around for many games. But I think here it is actually the perfect descriptor. Since 2013, Grinding Gear Games have been working on their ARPG with growing praise from those that have played it. The game does some major things right. All content is free, the game can be played as a free player with no penalty and makes you want to support the developer rather than feel you need to. It is far from perfect in that selling cosmetics limits the visual customisation options and the prices of some of its packs or in-game items feels slightly too expensive. But again it gets the balance right. And ultimately is as close to the best f2p game business model as you will find. The content on offer is fantastic and it is an outstanding ARPG as well.

World of Warcraft | Activision Blizzard
You could probably insert a few MMO’s here, but Blizzard’s 14-year old veteran game’s subscription model still works. And by retaining a subscription model there are very few in-game items to buy for real money. Whilst players moan about subscriptions, they still can provide one of the fairest business models a videogame can use. It’s also worth mentioning that WoW expansions have a Collector’s Edition but with only a few cosmetics included. There’s no Normal, Gold, Ultimate version rubbish here.

Guild Wars 2 | ArenaNet
No subscription and reasonably priced microtransactions. Far from perfect but does a lot of things very well when it comes to its business model. Unlike WoW it doesn’t have a subscription which is its strength.

Warframe | Digital Extremes
Great game, wonderful developer. F2p largely done right although the Prime Access pack are very expensive. However probably the best community manager in any videogame. And a phenomenally unique game. The fact this is the best looter shooter out there speaks volumes.

The bad

Call of Duty | Activision Blizzard
Year on year release. Season Pass, pre-order items, over £100 for the most expensive version and p2w in the form of weapons with better stats being in lootboxes. On top of that, this year’s entry has a slow grind version of Fortnite’s battle pass which has been designed to be very sllloooooowwwww at rewarding the player for obvious reasons. Eugh. About the most offensive cocktail of business models in modern triple AAA videogames.

Destiny | Bungie & Activision Blizzard
Again yearly releases, season passes and an endgame designed around lootboxes. For many including myself the realisation hit with the second game that there just wasn’t enough to justify the high purchase price. Great shooter and for the hardcore group PVE players they will be able to see pass these faults.

Grand Theft Auto Online | Rockstar & Take Two Interactive
A freemium, mobile game in structure. Everything is built around earning money which is very, very slow to acquire. It isn’t pretty. But unfortunately it has generated billions for Take 2 and Rockstar and clearly a blueprint for the recently released Red Dead Online.

FIFA/Madden Ultimate Team | Electronic Arts
I’ve written about this one before but EA has come under increasing criticism for its annual sports titles that appear to have only improvements in things relating to the Ultimate Team modes that are generating EA near or over a $billion every year. Like GTA V it’s effectively a freemium mobile game, with declining reasons for those not wanting to play the online mode to consider buying the game.

And the ugly

Marvel Heroes | Gazillion Entertainment (now defunct)
Marvel Heroes is a story of a f2p ARPG which was quite good fun and had a small but loyal following of fans. But is no longer around since it’s closure in November 2017. The studio and game were shut down only 12 days after Disney announced it was ending it’s working relationship with the developer. It’s a great example of where it’s possible to invest money and time in a service but unfortunately there is no guarantee it will be around that long.

I could list others like Evolve, or Lawbreakers. Indeed maybe even Fallout 76 which has turned into a big mess of a game. But ultimately I just needed one example to make the pun work!


I probably could list more examples in each category but when writing this it started to become clear that a trend has emerged over the last few years which is arguably good for consumers. And that is the rise of smaller, more dynamic studios whose games are reinventing and innovating within the industry without the pressure from publishers. And right now it’s hard to argue that the big five western publishers don’t have a monetisation problem where their greed is killing something special in a lot of their games.

November Update

A load of new games in the Black Friday offers.

New game pickups

  • Path of Exile Shadow Stalker Pack (PC)
  • Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition Game of the Year Edition (PS4)
  • Starlink Starter Pack and a couple of ship packs (Xbox & Switch)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration (Xbox)
  • Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Edition (PS4)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4)
  • Brothers: a Tale of two Sons (PS4)

What should have been a quiet month went a little bit crazy during Black Friday deals with some unplanned purchases. I have purchased Starlink Starter pack for Xbox One and Switch! With two of the exclusive ships packs (Scramble & Cerberus). I don’t necessarily want to spend on a full set or anything but quite like the look of the game and the concept. A game up until now I took no interest in.

I also picked up Battle Chasers and Dragon Age: Inquisition Game of the Year Edition as they were under £15 for both in a pre-Black Friday PSN promotion (and no I didn’t want the other games in the THQ Nordic PlayStation Humble Bundle). I thought Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration for £9 was exceptional value and too good to pass up.

Having got into Path of Exile I also purchased some stash and currency tabs. And just today took advantage of some of the cheap prices in the PSN Flash Sale after Cyber Monday to pick up Arkham Knight, What Remains of Edith Finch and Brothers. I owned Arkham Knight on disc when it first came out but sold it on when I barely had a chance to play it and realised there would be a complete version at some point. Under ten pounds for the Premium edition is a bargain.

Been playing (Grouvee Link)

  • World of Warcraft including the WoW Classic Blizzcon demo
  • Path of Exile
  • Hearthstone
  • Tetris

Spent a few hours playing the WoW Classic demo. Really interesting seeing the vanilla experience. Very stark contrast to what current WoW is. Combat is much slower paced, stacking skills and buffs etc as you wait for hits to land. In fact everything much slower; movement, questing and levelling too. I only played from The Burning Crusade so not sure if I’ll play this, but was really fun to play.

As noted in a recent blog post I’ve picked up Path of Exile again. Put about 15 hours or so into the Delve season, but holding off for the new season now. And finally I’ve been playing a lot of Tetris on the Game Boy. That game never gets old.

Completed/Abandoned

For the third month in a row, no games completed or abandoned…woops. WoW, playing with retro games and now PoE are to blame for that.

Updates & Up next

A few minor edits to the site, although the main one being changing ‘shelved’ to ‘abandoned’ on relevant pages – including this one.

With Christmas looming a number of games I would love to play. That said with my Game Pass subscription expiring soon I’m going to prioritise completing Rage if I can.

An exile again

I’ve decided to start playing Path of Exile. Properly.  And no I’m not playing because of that announcement in some sort of defiance of Activision Blizzard. Like many just over a week ago I sat down to digest the news from Blizzcon 2018 and saw the mess over Diablo Immortal although I was more enthralled with the news of a Warcraft 3 remaster than disappointment with the latest Diablo news. I do think a mobile version of Diablo could be good but unfortunately Diablo players on PC and console have been starved of content for a long time which I think reflects in some of the reactions to Diablo Immortal.

However seeing the footage of the new Diablo made me want to play a new ARPG. And it seems like no better time than to give Path of Exile a proper go. The bit that helped seal it was the Stash Tab (extra storage) sale over this past weekend and I’ve since invested in one of Grinding Gear Games (GGG) supporter packs.

It is a game I’ve toyed with before (about 16 hours) but always tried to resist the urge to get into it as I had lots of other games on the go. However I go through phases with ARPG games where I want to play them for a bit but only for a while. Although Path of Exile’s endgame can be the pure definition of ‘grind’ I think there is enough to see even as a more casual player.

I used to enjoy picking up Marvel Heroes Online every so often but unfortunately that has now gone. And whilst I really enjoy Diablo 3 I’m loathed to invest too much into a game that is clearly in maintenance mode (I’ve already got around 400 hours between the PC and PS4 versions). Support of an online game matters and in this sense GGG seems to have delivered a very compelling and fair business model. The game is the very definition of what a GaaS should be in my mind. And I think rewarding that with some of my time and money seems a fair exchange.