Something that has been rattling around for a while now, and I finally thought I'd present to the wider community, as summed up in the title, is a query about how others feel about more and more games seeming to feel the need to take over as much of our time as possible?
Obviously, this is nothing new. World of Warcraft exploded in popularity, but was far from the first MMO with a substantial playerbase. However, as the years go by, we see more and more elements built in to draw players back not just daily, but every few hours even. This really came to me as I was logging into Warframe to get my daily login bonus, after which I logged into Fortnite for the same thing, all the while snagging similar rewards for Galaxy of Heroes and the Westworld game on my phone, before logging into Conan Exiles on the PS4 (which doesn't have a daily log in, other than 'making sure your character has eaten and drank enough to avoid dying').
I realized I was more dutifully doing chores for digital worlds than I do in my own home. That between log in rewards and 'daily quests' and other benefits, it was possible to occupy a good hour or two of free time getting little incremental bonuses and benefits, while also not doing anything particularly productive at all.
I recognize that this is essentially 'video games as a hobby' in general, but between these elements and many Open World games that strive to have little (or no) actual ending, it is becoming ever more important to set hard boundaries in place.
Of course, I'm also aware that we live in an era with more single player experiences than any life will ever experience. That one need only fire up an old console or non-multiplayer game to achieve a beginning/middle/end experience. And even those were often tuned to be replayed again and again, or simply ended up enjoyable enough to commit entire quarters to. The original X-Com and Civilization come to mind; simple graphics, minimal story, but entire summers spent challenging them.
Perhaps it is merely the big names that get all the attention, but I think it settled in around the time I started investigating Fallout 76 that I really began to shy away from this element/genre. I get that not every game needs to cater to every person, and am happy to ignore those that fall outside my interests, but I'm finally committing this to Post form to see what the wider community thinks.
Overreaction? Onto something? Is this something that drives you crazy as well? Gaming as a medium is still fairly young, but it's interesting that where many TV shows are proving to benefit from a shorter, tighter experience (8-12'ish episodes rather than dozens in a season, for example), where many games strive to eat up as many spare hours as we can pour into them, intentionally unending and often trying to monetize those hours with ways to speed up mechanics or acquisition of resources.
The same thing started happening in non-MMOs once micro-transactions arrived. Player retention drives sales of cosmetics and other additional purchases, which encourages game design to prolong play time as much as possible.
This means making your game really big or making it multiplayer. A really big single player game is a lot of work, so you move away from 'handcrafted' experiences to sandbox/open world styles where the same 4 cave layouts can be copy-pasted 50 times across to give the illusion of meaningful content.
You combine this with preying on human psychology, positive feedback loops, a compulsion to 'check off' every map icon etc. until you get people investing 100+ hours into what is actually highly repetitive content. But as long as they're booting up your game, they're on the hook for DLC, micro-transactions and any other products you put out.
Games as a service is highly desired by most big devs/publishers. Regular income is more profitable and more reliable than spending 2-3 years making one game which returns 80% of it's total profits in the first month of sale. With increasing costs for the latest hardcore super HD graphics and everything else in modern game development, it's probably more risky to put out a traditional AAA single player experience that doesn't try to keep it's players on the hook.
It's kind of like a class system. Except instead of the middle class dying out to be replaced with just the super rich and the poor, we get big publishers pushing out only player retention/micro-transaction based games and Indies putting out the unique single player games that have a defined Start->Finish progression.
You still get your prestige single player games though, and they're mostly first party. Sony will bankroll prestige titles like Horizon or GoW because it brings people into their platform and ecosystem, lessening the burden on the games individually to bring in constant income. Nintendo also put out plenty, like Odyssey and BoTW, for the same reason.
If you're a dev/publisher, encourage people to keep playing for months for the micro-transactions.
If you're platform holder (hardware or service like Steam/Origin) just bring people into your platform as you profit off of all sales made there.
Platform holders can do both of course, which is also why every big publisher wants players to sign up and login to their own service (U-Play, Paradox account etc. etc.)
There's other factors of course. Open world games are also just 'in' at the moment, and like Hollywood the gaming industry will copy anything that has become successful. But it's mostly money. When GTA5 makes billions in micro-transactions per year, everyone else is gonna take notice.
I’m mostly over “spend 20 hours a week to do this housekeeping that isn’t fun or you’ll fall behind your friends” also known as I let my wow sub lapse again this week.
As in, people spending hours on this stuff.
I get that it's a choice, nobody is holding a gun to my head, I can walk away if I decide it's egregious enough, but the it seems to be a direction at least some game developers are following. An attempt to not just get those frequent Candy Crush players, but to have it be a thing people actually regret not playing for a day, missing out on that log in reward or completion bonus.
Obviously this is playing into several psychological elements, and the winning move is not to play, but that's on a micro/personal level. On a macro level, I suspect we'll see more of this, in more egregious ways, until something the size of the Battlefront 2 fiasco lands in someone's lap and they get made an example of.
I think it's more many video games are trying to be a player's hobby instead of video games in general being the hobby. People who were disheartened by Destiny 2 dropping a lot of the more fiddly and time consuming mechanics from 1 (though not with so many cockups of its own in the pursuit of RMT) sometimes were proclaiming that they wanted Destiny 2 specifically to be their hobby.
I'm of mixed opinions on the whole daily activity and login reward things since, well, I'm getting older so I've seen a lot of permutations.
Earliest one I can think of experiencing personally was Pokemon Silver/Gold where certain events only happened on some days a week and you had the introduction of the day night cycle. As a single player experience not selling microtransactions and not trying to get one to play in perpetuity, just for a long time, I'm fine with this. More so since it targets a lot of kids who may not get to have many games to their name. If it adds value to the game for both the kid and a parent or guardian with limited finances I'm all for it.
The next that I remember was when WoW added daily quests. I was pretty fine with this too. Wow had a huge reach beyond the core MMO audience but so much of the end game was raid focused that a lot of players just didn't have anything to work towards if they didn't raid. Dailies at least gave something worth doing if it wasn't a raid night or that just wasn't your thing. There's a balance though in that if the dailies are too rewarding over other activities in the game players can be drawn to do nothing but repeated dailies and burn out. At least even pretty early on Blizzard made some of the daily quests rotate.
Where it starts to get less enjoyable is when the content available is shallow or the login rewards feel constrictive.
I'll start with Destiny 2 at launch since that's an easy target. On PC there was no built in way to organize raids and raids seemed to be where all the focus was after a while. When I realized all I was really doing was just doing the minimum to get my weekly and daily rewards and not much else because there just wasn't much else I could do with my schedule it wasn't a hard choice to drop the game.
Elder Scrolls Online eventually had a similar issue for me but this took a really, really long time. On the one hand, I applaud that they didn't put in an endless gear level grind. While character level caps go up with each content drop, that applies to all characters regardless of content owned and not to items. But this also means a lot of the content ends up being trivialized over time unless one is specifically hitting the harder DLC dungeons or raids. A lot of systems and RNG dependent and while it has my favorite crafting system in an MMO to date hitting daily quests across different DLC for a chance at a new item style just ate up so much time after a while while not being much fun anymore. To its credit, this was after I had put in hundreds if not thousands of hours into the game and the reason I wanted those styles is that the artists do such a good job of making new designs with each DLC/expansion. They recently added in daily login rewards that accrue towards a capstone award at the end of the month. I'm torn on this. They initially put in some leeway so you didn't have to login each day but not for September and some issues with how they changed patch distribution has left the game dead in the water for many players too. In the end daily and login stuff just felt like it was masking a lot of user unfriendly systems (second worst implementation of player economy I've seen in an MMO) that oddly went along with a lot of really user friendly systems (seriously, the best level scaling mechanics in a multiplayer game so a newbie can jump into open world content with their friends without getting instantly destroyed, they just won't do massive DPS in exchange for higher durability).
There's a middle ground somewhere though. Guild Wars 2's has been decent. The daily login rewards will spit out really useful materials that make some of the more desired craftable cosmetic items attainable over time even for more casual players. The dailies quests I'm less fond of at times just due to the weird balance issues with the game where the base game open world is neat but often simple while expansion areas are much, much harder. But I never felt like I was really missing out if I ignored the daily quests outside of a few exceptions during seasonal events and nothing required me to log in for x days in a row or else I'd never see it again. The dailies were a good guided way for newer players to make money and acquire resources but not necessarily the most efficient way if one had more experience which is probably a good way to do it.
I think that's really what my ideal is: Daily activities should guide people who could use it, not force players into something for fear of missing out. That's what keeps them from becoming chores for me.
3DS: 3454-0268-5595 Battle.net: SteelAngel#1772
Dailies don't even need to have rewards.
Look at daily leaderboard fixed seed challenges like the daily Spelunky and Necrodancer challenges.
People must find coming back to these games for a run or two rewarding, even without explicit rewards or punishments for doing so.
Seeing the end credits scroll on a single player game is usually more rewarding to me than getting good at a multiplayer game.
And then if I want more from it I'll get the DLC or try for 100% completion.
But as soon as any game feels like a chore I'll probably drop it and move on to something else, or watch someone else play it for the story.
But it's less tangible than using that daily mobile game energy to progress, or having all your Farmville crops die.
The net result if you don't play is: You don't see the leaderboard I guess, and can reattempt tomorrow?
Of course this process has been repeated many times...
I think now I am older, I am more resistant to this manipulation though.
The last part also means you're probably more established in your career and can afford more games. A lot of younger gamers aren't and when you're fresh out of college or just never went to it daily tasks to extend the life of a game can help some stretch their value.
A number of my friends noted back when we were in our 20s and deep into MMOs that we spent a lot less on games while focused on an MMO than when we weren't though this was back before Steam sales and indies were really a thing.
3DS: 3454-0268-5595 Battle.net: SteelAngel#1772
kept me from spending a ton of money on single-player games and MtG.
Though that was offset with a new gaming rig every couple of years, so while I wouldn't call it a wash, that Burning Crusade era PC update probably caught things up a little closer to parity than they'd have been otherwise.
I think this is reversed. If anything, mobile games are one of the biggest exponents of it, since the vast majority of the successful ones are F2P, and they want you logging in every day for a whole slew of reasons.
There absolutely is grind-based design for them for which minor quantitative rewards can be granted because this is a design which is both easier to produce content for as well as one which is easier to monetize/provide rewards for. There's a reason why so many of these games have RPG stat elements to them! It allows for progression in an easily quantitatively defined way which can have monetization models built around it readily.