If you were to ask someone to describe the current landscape of video games, chances are one of the most common terminologies that would come up would be “Live Service.” We live in a day and age where the lifespan of a game doesn’t begin and end on a game’s release. From things like “New Maps, Characters, and ongoing balancing, a game could get support that lasts for years, or decades. However, for as many games that see success with live services, there are just as many that do not have a strong launch and cancel support before reaching the first anniversary. And as of late, Square-Enix has done poorly implementing Live Services.

Final Fantasy XIV. A game with such a poor launch, the entire world saw itself get a reboot.”

Most companies may put out a game that might not only last as long as they would like, but Square-Enix has usually had struggles getting them off the ground. It wasn’t that long ago that we saw the launch of what was declared to be the worst Final Fantasy title of all time: Final Fantasy XIV. A game that had such a poor launch, the game saw itself getting rebooted into “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.” Thankfully, it would be one of the very few Live Service titles that would see great success after a poor launch, but some games do not get to be so lucky.

And with the year Square-Enix had in 2022, the question becomes why so many of their live services have or will be seizing operations so close together to each other. And we must ask ourselves a simple question: Should Square-Enix reconsider the Live Service games? For if we were to summarize what 2022 was like for them, it would be this:

“Three Games Launched, Three Games Canceled”

Let’s take a look at these games. These are the games that we got that did not make it to a full 12 months of support.

Chocobo GP:

Did Chocobo GP really need to launch with A Battle Pass and Microtransactions?”

Launched: March 10th, 2022

Canceled: December 21st, 2022.

During the September 2021 Nintendo Direct, we got our first look at Chocobo GP. Everyone was happy to see the return/remake of a game back from 1999 on the original PlayStation. A colorful cast of characters (including a couple of popular Final Fantasy namesakes like Vivi and Gilgamesh (to name a few), Online and Offline multiplayer, story mode, and customizable karts. How could this not see success?

At launch, Chocobo GP had two versions. The full game for $50 and a “Free Lite” version that gave players the chance to play it for free. What was free? One Prologue race and access to the multiplayer races (just so as long as you are with someone who owns the full version). Ok, but the game itself was fun right? It did fairly decent with a Metacritic score of around 63%. However while some did enjoy the actual racing portion of the game, the monetization did not set well with anyone.

Want to get Cloud as a racer? Better finish that $10 Battle Pass before the season ends. How about Squall? Go to the store and drop off 3000 coins (earned mostly through challenges and the battle pass). Progression was so slow, they adjusted the settings to make it easier while giving out free in-game currency (that was set to expire five months after gifting). By the time we got to December 21st, 2022, we got the announcement that Season 5 would be the final season and the in-game store would close up on January 6th, 2023.

It also didn’t help Chocobo GP launched a week before Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s first wave of DLC tracks. Talk about bad timing…

Babylon’s Fall:

This is a real comparison picture on Square-Enix’s Feedback Page during the Beta.”

Launched: March 3, 2022

Canceled: February 27, 2023

The year was 2017. We saw the launch of a game developed by PlatinumGames and published by Square-Enix called: NieR Automata. After its launch, PlatniumGames got to work on their next big releases: A new IP on Nintendo Switch (Astral Chain), the long-awaited sequel to Bayonetta, and their very own live service game on PlayStation platforms.

With a visual art style that looks like a classic European oil painting while wanting to expand on the combat mechanics of NieR: Automata and put it in a multiplayer setting, one would think this would be the next big Live Service game after Final Fantasy XIV.

However, we would later find out that the only similarities it shared with Final Fantasy XIV were the borrowed assets. It also didn’t help that while they wanted to have a particular visual style for the game, it only resulted in the game looking blurry and pixelated.

To make matters worse at the time of launch, there were only 1,200 players (and at one time, it dropped to only one concurrent player enjoying the game on PC). By the time Babylon’s Fall was torn apart by fans and critics, it saw itself setting at a score of 46% on Metacritic and was even listed as the third-worst game to come out in 2022 (falling behind CrossfireX and Postal 4: No Regerts).

On September 13, 2022 (six months after the game’s launch), Square-Enix and PlatinumGames would announce the Babylon’s Fall‘s servers would shut down on Feburary 27, 2023. One of the game director’s would later talk about the challenges of creating a live-service game and how new hardware and the pandemic made things so much more complicated.

Final Fantasy VII: First Soldier

All from the comfort of your cellphone or tablet. Where else would you play a Battle Royale?”

Launched: November 17th, 2021

Canceled: January 11th, 2023

While First Soldier did not necessarily launch in 2022, it did start its services right around the same time. A game that combined two ideas together (Battle Royales and Final Fantasy VII), one would think this would have been a recipe for success, right? Well… Not so much. While Fortnite continues to be the dominant Battle Royale title out there, many other publishers also wanted a piece of that genre. And while some are still active to this day, others have seen a lower player base and have had to close up shop.

And First Soldier was the latest title to see its services cut short.

What made Final Fantasy VII: First Soldier’s 75 players Battle Royale stand out was not only having your standard weapons but also useable materia and eight job classes to pick from (Trickster, Machinist, Dragoon, Warrior, Sorcerer, Ninja, Monk, and Ranger). With all that build up, why would it not see big numbers? That would be because the game was exclusive to Apple and Android devices. This isn’t to say the game was set for failure from the start, but for some players, there is a preference to play either on PC or a console; a small phone screen might not be the ideal choice for some.

On October 12, 2022 Square Enix announced the termination of service for Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier. And the reason for this (as cited by Square Enix) was due to the inability to deliver on the intended experience. Would the game have gotten more players if it were released on PC or PlayStation? Perhaps, but this was the start and finish to Square-Enix’s attempt to dive into Battle Royales.

And then there is…

Marvel’s Avengers:

Square-Enix Marvel's Avengers

I guess Taskmaster was one of the few Super Villains that didn’t have scheduling conflicts.”

This brings us to the latest title to see its own fair share of strifes and struggles: Marvel’s Avengers. First announced back in E3 2019, we were given a 14-minute presentation that gave us look at the gameplay, the heroes and customization and even the voice actors who would be voicing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. We were going to have our action-pack beat ‘em up with The Avengers with more heroes and stories coming after launch!

How could this possibly go wrong?

First six months of Avengers on PC on Steam Charts. The player base steeply dropped.

So. Where do we begin?

The greatest issue that faced Marvel’s Avengers wasn’t necessarily the single-player story campaign. Even the combat of Avengers felt special since each of the six playable heroes felt unique to one another. The issues sadly rose up when you reach the postgame. You soon come to realize the repetitive nature of the game. Matchmaking was broken, progression was rocky, and an overall lack of variety (including two named villains at launch).

15 months after launch, but we did get Spider-Man on one platform.

While the post-game content did leave players wanting so much more, we did see more playable heroes join the roster over time. It was nice to see characters like Kate Bishop and Black Panther (including Wakanda’s jungle as a new location).

“Avengers Disassembled”

As time went on though, we did see other heroes join that did share some similarities to the cast already present in the game already. Hawkeye came out after Kate Bishop and was just another archer with, Mighty Thor (Thor’s female counterpart from an alternative universe), and Winter Soldier (who was a mix of Captain America and Black Widow).

This wouldn’t be so bad except for how long it took to see the new heroes join the game. And that wait was even worse if you were not a PlayStation owner with Spider-Man being exclusive. If you were on Xbox or PC, you were out of luck as there was no other content at the time of Spider-Man’s inclusion.

With the long times in between waiting for new content and new playable heroes (even longer if you didn’t have PlayStation to play with Spider-Man exclusively), it didn’t take long for Avengers to lose interest. And after a two-year run, it was announced on January 20th 2023 by Crystal Dynamics that Official Support for the game will end on September 30th.

And even after everything closes up, they still decided to keep Spider-Man an exclusive character!

Should Square-Enix Keep Trying To Launch Live Service titles?

We could keep going on about the latest shortcomings from Square-Enix between an ongoing interest with Non-Fungible Tokens, Balan Wonderworld almost reaching its two-year anniversary, or other mobile titles like Final Fantasy: Record Keeper stopping services in 2022 in the States (while ongoing in Japan).

However, we must ask ourselves about the feasibility of Live Service titles under Square-Enix. Normally it wouldn’t matter if a publisher or developer decides a game has run its course and to close it up. But as you have seen, having four games all close up within a year’s time of each other is not a common thing. Especially if three of those didn’t even make it to one year.

This is also not to say Square-Enix should stop all their live service titles altogether since Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is still going strong (after its initial poor reception). Outriders is also in operations as well for its second year (but has a player base that is averaging under a thousand players, so that’s a concern).

Latest numbers show peak numbers not going over 1000 for the last three months.”

We could also give Square-Enix the benefit of the doubt. After all, we are still recovering from the pandemic these were from separate developers who came forth with their ideas of live service titles. Who could predict that just about all of them would launch and close within a year’s time? And what were the chances they would be shut down so close to each other? For as crazy as it sounds, the ones who might have known could have been Square-Enix themselves.

“GaaS Will Grow in Importance”

“…Taking on the GaaS model highlighted issues that we are likely to face in future game development efforts such as the need to select game designs that mesh with the unique attributes and tastes of our studios and development teams. While the new challenge that we tackled with this title produced a disappointing outcome, we are certain that the GaaS approach will grow in importance as gaming becomes more service oriented. How we go about creating new experiences by incorporating this trend into our game design is a key question that we will need to answer going forward.”

President & Representative Director Yosuke Matsuda (Square-Enix’s 2021 Annual Report)

And what was the answer to that key question? It… went unanswered.

During the 2022 Annual Report, there was no mention of Games as a Service or Live Service (even though there was still a section for the Blockchain). Even Marvel’s Avengers saw one mention at most (as if to prep the announcement that support was going to be cut soon).

In a sense, Square-Enix might have come to the conclusion of Live Services much sooner than we realized and made arrangements toward other ventures. Who knows what this means for any other existing Live Service titles (although they will likely remain as they are) for now. With the release of big-name titles coming this year like Final Fantasy XVI, Square-Enix likely will not have much to worry about for the short term.

Even so, they need to be aware that their approach in these most recent years have not been as rocksteady as they would hope. And in the end, they need to do a re-evaluation of their approach with Live Service Titles and any others they may plan to launch in the future, if they haven’t already.

What are your thoughts on the recent actions of Square-Enix?

Do you think we could see any more Live Service titles from them? And does their future look brighter than it currently does? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Strangely Awesome for more articles covering Square-Enix and other things happening in the gaming world.

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