Ex Destiny and Halo Producer Says Live Service Is ‘Better for Developers and Players’

A former Halo and Destiny executive producer at Bungie has said the live service model is “so much better for developers and players” than the one-off $60 or $70 purchase model.

Speaking to PC Gamer, Theorycraft Games CEO and former Halo: Reach and Destiny executive producer Joe Tung said the traditional method of buying video games, meaning to make a single payment of around $60 or $70, causes developers to make decisions which were not “in the best interest” of players.

“I always felt like, in the $60 boxed product model, I was having to make decisions that were not in the best interest of players,” Tung said.

The games as a service model is so much better for developers and players.

“It was in the best interest of: ‘How do we sell as many copies in the first 48 hours as we can?’ One of the huge strengths of the games as a service model is you can be long term, you can think long term in terms of what is best for the player, and how does that overlap with what is best for the company. I think it allows you to make much, much, much better decisions overall.”

Tung referenced the now defunct E3 and the trailers and gameplay clips which premiered there, promising what he called “bulls**t vaporware” that players would never actually get to experience, because all developers had to do was convince them to spend $60.

“I would wager that any developer who has ever worked in the $60 box product model, up until the point where E3 was cancelled, has a story about the E3 build,” he said. “It’s like, let’s jam as much bulls**t vaporware into the build as we can in the next three months because we have to have a huge showing at E3, because it’s our one opportunity to talk to our audience before we launch the game.”

“I would have to wager that some hugely significant percentage of those E3 efforts ended up on the cutting room floor because they were half-baked and caused people to crunch and really make huge sacrifices to get it in,” Tung added. “That’s my favorite example of hugely impactful decisions that were not about what is best for the player.”

Live service, on the other hand, allows developers to continue working on games after launch, communicate with their audience to see what players actually want, and so on. Tung therefore believes “the games as a service model is so much better for developers and players.”

The topic has proved controversial amongst gamers, with many frustrated that even single player games now have microtransactions, preorder bonuses, early access periods, and so on, and as a result the $60 purchase, which is more commonly $70 in 2024, no longer grants everything a game has to offer.

Ubisoft titles Star Wars: Outlaws and Assassin’s Creed Shadows have both faced criticism for this recently, as both have missions locked behind more expensive editions and can’t be played on their true launch date unless players spend upwards of $100.

Some developers have seemingly managed to thread the needle between one-off purchase and live service, however, with PlayStation and PC hit Helldivers 2 being the best recent example of a successful game balancing both models.

It launched for a lesser $40 and still features microtransactions, but its live service components feature incredible depth as the game’s story is weaved around them and changes depending on what players can and can’t accomplish in timed events.

This combination appears to have worked as Helldivers 2 wasn’t just received well by critics but had sold more than 12 million copies by May 14, 2024.

Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelance reporter. He’ll talk about The Witcher all day.

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