Games as a Service (GaaS): how online games prolong their lifespan

The age of widespread internet has had a tremendous impact on gaming.

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Written and provided by G2A.com

The age of widespread internet has had a tremendous impact on gaming. Never before have patches been so easy to distribute and feedback on - whilst multiplayer experiences are so essential to the hobby.

The importance of online entertainment eventually birthed a new metagenre: Games as a Service, an umbrella term for all the different ever-evolving games, some of which have always existed, but never had a name for that specific publishing model.

So, what are Games as a Service (or GaaS), why are they so popular, and what are the exemplars of this format? Let's take a quick look.

Ancient origins, modern application
While the label and associations related to the Games as a Service model is a fairly recent thing, they are as old as the massive, paid, multiplayer online games such as the classic MMORPGs RuneScape or the immortal World of Warcraft.

The idea is quite simple: users pay a fee, and in return they can play the game and access new content delivered via updates and expansions.

The fee is separate from the purchase price, but some GaaS have a Free-to-Play core.

Instead, the cost might be a recurring subscription, or a premium season pass. In such cases, free users can typically play much of the game and enjoy its systems, but they lack the full wealth of content available to paying users. Subscribing in a MMORPG might lift resource limits and grant access to expansions, for instance, while a premium season pass is likely to feature better rewards and faster progression than its free counterpart.

Sometimes, a game might have neither subscriptions nor paid "passes" and relies on the community willing to purchase discrete items from the in-game store, such as new skins or premium currency used for trade or unlocking useful, but non-essential Quality of Life features.

Of course, to keep people's interest healthy and focused, games following the Games as a Service monetization model tend to constantly work on adding new things to their games. New weapons, new regions of the map or gameplay modes, more exciting gear to acquire, often entire new sections of a game's storyline, etc.

The trick to a high player retention, therefore, is to keep players engaged, involved, and interested enough to renew their subscriptions or pay for premium season passes or currency.

GaaS in practice
Since MMORPGs are archetypical Games as a Service, they also make for great examples. Take, for instance, The Elder Scrolls Online, a game celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year. On June 3rd it released a new expansion, Gold Road, which brings with it a new story about demonic Daedra, a new region unseen for many real-life years, called West Weald, and new systems such as Scribing granting access to customizable skills. It's the eighth expansion in the game's history, and each has been a substantial injection of exciting content.

Elder Scrolls does require up-front payments for the base game and latest expansions, but they can be side-stepped through the ESO Plus subscription unlocking most expansions and removing limits on gameplay features unavailable to non-subscribers.

Games as a Service (GaaS): how online games prolong their lifespan

An alternative example, and one that's also getting a new expansion very soon, is Destiny 2. Unlike ESO, D2 is free-to-play, with the core game and its first three expansions (Curse of Osiris, Warmind, Forsaken) are available to anyone, while later ones require a purchase to access their gear, raids, stories and more. It's a great balance: play the game for free, and get paid content when and if you like the core.

On June 4th it welcomed the arrival of The Final Shape expansion, moving the series' plot forward, and bringing a new game mode alongside enticing rewards for completing it. It even brings a new customizable subclass-type, Prismatic, combining the game's several damage types, available for the game's three core classes.

Games as a Service (GaaS): how online games prolong their lifespan

A great example of the third approach is Warframe: a long-running third-person action game which has been free-to-play for well over a decade. Despite that, it keeps delivering massive expansions year after year, with smaller game updates sprinkling new weapons and warframes (playable classes/characters/powersets) generously in-between.

The only paid elements in the game are cosmetics and convenience, such as a zero-grind access to special versions of Warframes, premium currency, and the community-boosting TennoGen program.

In all cases, the games feature dynamic events, special activities, modes, and more to keep their fanbases hooked and excited for upcoming batches of fresh content.

Ephemeral experiences
A unique trait of Games as a Service is the fact that some experiences are lost in time. Special events, pre-patch class designs, unique rewards, you can easily miss out on all of them, and end up envying your veteran teammate flaunting all the neat stuff from three seasons ago. If you would like to be that veteran teammate to somebody, visit https://www.g2a.com and find a GaaS that's right for you!

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