Now more than ever, deciding which game to play isn’t a short-term choice. Increasingly, AAA games aren’t being designed to be beaten and resold. They’re designed to hook us in for as long as humanly possible, feeding their long tails of constant updates with an even bigger stream of in-game purchases.
All of these games are competing for our finite time and limited budgets, so it’s become more important than ever not to back a dead horse. Go all-in on a multiplayer game that’s dead in a few months and you’re going to feel short-changed. Others can stretch on for years, amassing vast communities of players and constantly updated with expansions and other content.
When picking which game to play though, there is a bit of a science. Some publishers drop support at the merest hint of trouble, while others are prepared to dig in and dish out the updates, grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck and dragging it from failure to commercial success. For the former, look no further than Star Wars Battlefront 2. For the latter, take a peek at Rainbow Six Siege.
One publisher was prepared to stick by its game no matter what, delivering on their promises and rewarding the commitment of those who stuck by it through the years. EA on the hand, dropped a turd, tried to polish it for a few weeks, and have now pretty much abandoned its $60 Star Wars-licensed game entirely. I don't for a second put the blame on DICE for this one, it all comes down to EA's misguided decision-making from start to finish. When deciding where to spend your next $60, which publisher are you going to trust?
As a matter of interest, I decided to take a quick look at the biggest third-party publishers in the world to see how they compare to one another. It provides some insight into which publishers’ games have the longest lifespans, and which drop support as soon as they can sniff out another easy way to squeeze $60 out of its fanbase.
While there's a great deal of variance from game to game for each publisher, the chart does help to identify a few current trends. First and foremost, EA abandons nearly all of its games within two years, but usually just one. It doesn't matter whether they're critical of commercial successes, either they're dropped and abandoned or focus shifts immediately to a sequel. The only outlier here is The Sims, which EA is happy to support long-term with countless expansion packs.
A single step up from EA is Activision, although it's a close-run thing. Activision's gaming output is very limited these days. The Call of Duty games typically only receive nine months of map packs and then they're all about marketing their next Call of Duty title. Destiny is Activision's experiment with something different, although it's also prohibitively more expensive to keep playing than nearly every game on this list. Expansions for the first Destiny totaled hundreds of dollars for a couple of years of content and Destiny 2 is following the same pattern.
Sitting in the middle of the pack is Ubisoft, a publisher in a transitional period. Long-focused on single-player games and annualised franchises, Ubisoft is gradually shifting to Games as a Service (GaaS) and lots of post-launch support. Three of the games on this list are still actively supported, and most of its multiplayer games will get at least two years of support these days.
With the final two publishers, we enter a different echelon of commitment to the fanbases, the games, and the franchises though. Three of Valve's current franchises are still active (DOTA 2, CSGO, TF2), totaling 20 years of support between them. When Valve launches a game it will stick by it, probably because its games are hugely successful in the first place.
Blizzard is even more consistent though, fostering a relatively small roster of core IPs that are improved and supported to the bitter end. No modern Blizzard game gets fewer than three years of support as a bare minimum, and the case of World of Warcraft it's an insane 14 years and counting. If you want your money to go a long way with a multiplayer game, Blizzard is the frontrunner.
What are your thoughts then, do you have particular publishers you avoid due to unreliable post-launch support? With so many games being supported for so long, how many do you actually get to play? Let us know your thoughts below!