原作者：Jeff Grubb 译者：Vivian Xue
电子游戏业务成本高、风险大，所在市场由热门产品主导。但Live Service游戏正在改变这种局面。如今游戏公司不再尝试依靠一部完整的大作获得成功，而是尝试通过Live Service吸引玩家不断回归游戏。（Live Service，或称Game Service，是一种“游戏服务”，即在游戏本体发行后，为其制定长期的DLC支持计划，游戏邦注）
你是否注意到了《巫师3》（The Witcher III: Wild Hunt）？2015年3月发行时它升到了第四名，但同年7月就消失了。
《巫师3》是过去五年内出现的大作之一。但CD Projekt Red没能让它留在排行榜上。这是一款单机游戏，你玩完就放一边了。这类游戏显然能够继续盈利，《巫师3》自然做到了。但根据它在排行榜上的表现，像《巫师3》这样的游戏投资回报率可能不是那么理想。
2. Live Service游戏多年业绩常青，甚至能有所增长
其它Live Service游戏也展现出了强大的持久力。飞车球赛游戏《火箭联盟》（Rocket League）几乎总排在前10。生存模拟游戏《腐蚀》（Rust）以及《方舟：生存进化》（Ark：Survival Evolved）也几乎从未掉出过排行榜。
《巫师3》兴起又消失。连《辐射 4》都很快被《腐蚀》和《方舟》超越了。事实上，唯一一款没有掉出排行榜的3A大作是《侠盗猎车手5》，而它包含了一个非常热门的Live Service模式“GTA Online”。
这正是问题的关键，游戏公司是清楚这些数据的。并且他们正在逐渐认识到，即便他们做了一款像《巫师 3》一样受人喜爱的游戏（大多数开发者可能做不到这一点），玩家还是会在几周后抛弃它。但如果他们做一款Live Service游戏，即便它一开始并不完美，玩家数量也比较小，他们仍然有机会创造一些能提供稳定收入的内容。最重要的是，制作Live Service游戏大概成本更低，虽然后期维护花销比较大，但开发商不必在开发结束后裁员了，而完全有理由留下原本的开发人才，靠这一点就可以节省招募新员工耗费的时间和金钱。
仅仅因为《巫师3》很快从排行榜上消失而《火箭联盟》仍然稳居其中，并不意味着Live Service游戏完全没有风险。Live Service游戏仍然受制于热度这个因素。
并且尽管《星际战甲》《火箭联盟》和《方舟：生存进化》的长盛不衰展现了Live Service游戏的强大的生存力，但自2015年以来，很少有新游戏能挤排行榜前15。因此Live Service不是保证成功的秘诀。
5.《赞歌》（Anthem）vs. 《质量效应：仙女座》（Mass Effect：Andromeda）
The video game business is an expensive and risky hit-driven market. But live-service games are altering this dynamic. Instead of trying to hit a home run with a massive blockbuster, companies are trying to build platforms that people will come back to for months or years.
Ubisoft, for example, has explicitly said that it doesn’t want to make game products anymore — it wants to make platforms. It has seen success doing that with Rainbow Six: Siege, and it has emulated that with For Honor and The Division.
But if you’ve played games for a significant amount of time, you may wonder why this change is happening. Why are publishers like Ubisoft abandoning a product model that worked for decades? Well, you can find the answer to that in the Steam peak concurrent players chart. And YouTube channel TheRankings has visualized that list over the four-year period from 2015 through 2018 to make it easier to parse.
The video shows the peak concurrent players for the top 15 games on Steam every day starting on January 1 2015 and running through the end of last year. As games grow or as new games get released, they jump up the chart. And as people lose interest in existing games, they fall out of the top 15.
You can watch the chart in action by clicking play on the video at the top of this list. But let’s talk about what it highlights and what it reveals.
Blockbusters exist, but they come and then go
The first thing I noticed while watching this video is just how infrequently we get games that are big enough to make a dent on Steam. And even when a blockbuster does come along, it tends to falls off the charts after a few weeks — or sometimes in a few days.
Did you even notice The Witcher III: Wild Hunt on the chart? It popped up to No. 4 when it came out in May 2015. But by July 2015, it was gone.
The Witcher III is one of the biggest games of the last five years. But CD Projekt Red did not build it to hang on this list. It’s a single-player campaign that you experience and then put away. Games like that can obviously still make money. Witcher III certainly has. But the behavior of this chart highlights how a game like The Witcher III may not get the best return on investment.
Live-service games stick around for years and can even grow over time
By January 2015, Warframe was already almost two years old. The free-to-play sci-fi shooter was also still among the 15 most played games on Steam. And as the video reveals, it was consistently in the top 15 all the way through December 2018.
What’s most impressive about Warframe, however, is that its daily peak concurrent number grows over time. On January 1, 2015 it has 24,000 players. That number gets leaps over 100,000 players by October 2017. It does so again in August 2018. Throughout all of last year, Warframe’s daily peak concurrent players is in the 70,000-to-80,000 range with those occasional peaks closer to 100,000.
Warframe started small, and it has grown over time. And it’s not the only game to follow that trajectory.
Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege did not crack the top 15 when it debuted in December 2015. It doesn’t even consistently rank among the most-played games on Steam until early 2017. But it has turned into a monster ever since. It’s gone from approximately 40,000 daily peak concurrent players on Steam in 2017 to regularly having more than 100,000 by the end of 2018.
Other live service games have seen similar staying power. The car-soccer game Rocket League is almost always in the top 10. And survival sims Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved are also nearly always on the chart.
This doesn’t even count the thriving and growing audience for live-service games on console, which includes Warframe, Rocket League, and Siege.
Is the risk worth the investment
What this chart drives home more than anything is that making a massive, triple-A blockbuster is potentially not worth the cost.
The Witcher III came and went. But even something like Fallout 4 quickly fell back behind games like Rust and Ark. In fact, the one blockbuster that hasn’t lost its place at the top of the chart is Grand Theft Auto V, and that has a massively popular live-service mode in GTA Online.
Game companies don’t share their budgets, but it’s probably fair to assume that The Witcher III is a more expensive game to make than Rocket League.
And that is the crucial point here. Game companies have this data. And they are learning the lesson that even if they make a game as beloved as The Witcher III (which most developers probably cannot do), people are still going to put it away after a few weeks. But if they make a live-service game, even if it’s not perfect at launch and starts small, they have a chance of making something that could turn into a consistent source of revenue. On top of that, a live-service game is probably less expensive to make. And while they are functionally more expensive to maintain, they give developers a good reason to keep talented staff on board instead of laying people off between games. That alone can save time and money in hunting down staff.
It’s still risky
Just because The Witcher 3 fell off the chart quickly and Rocket League is still around doesn’t mean that games-as-a-service is free from risk. Live-service games are still subject to the hit-based nature of this medium.
Ubisoft’s The Division is an example. It is a blockbuster-scale shooter that the publisher designed to operate as a platform. But it also came and went in March 2016.
And while the consistent success of Warframe, Rocket League, and Ark are a positive sign for the viability of live-service games, few new games broke into that top 15 list on Steam since 2015. So it’s not like this is a recipe for a guaranteed hit.
But the industry isn’t turning to live-service games because they believe it guarantees them Siege like player numbers. It’s just that this model mitigates some of the risks.
Anthem vs. Andromeda
Electronic Arts may reveal over the next year how the live-service model is a smart evolution of how to make and sell games. The company has had two critically disappointing games from developer BioWare with this year’s Anthem and 2017’s Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is a largely single-player role-playing adventure. Like other games of that type, it came and went shortly after its debut. But many fans didn’t love it, and EA and BioWare decided to abandon the game and its plans for expansion-style downloadable content.
Now, two years later, Anthem is in a similar position. It is dealing with middling reviews and a mixed reaction from fans.
But unlike Andromeda, Anthem already has a roadmap of content and updates for the next 12 months. EA and BioWare have a clear path in front of them to turn Anthem into something that grows over time like Rainbow Six: Siege.
Again, nothing is guaranteed. BioWare still has to do the work to get Anthem into shape. But the point is that the live-service model gives it the chance to do that. The older model of building a standalone game and then adding onto that with DLC did not.
From a publisher’s point of view, it is far less risky to spend years working on a live-service game that you can eventually improve than on a product that bombs and everyone forgets about a few months later.（source：Venturebeat）