Skate developer Full Circle announced this week that the next installment in the beloved skateboarding series will be a free-to-play live-service game, and the reaction has been largely negative. All 2,500 YouTube comments and every tweet I’ve seen has lamented the lack of a single-player campaign – despite the fact that the studio hasn’t said there isn’t one – and anger towards things like multiplayer, microtransactions, and the presumption that since it will be free, it will somehow be less “fleshed out”, whatever that means.
So here’s my unpopular opinion, I’m glad Skate is a live service game. I love ongoing, online multiplayer games, and Skate is a perfect fit for that format. I know we don’t like it when things change, but if you love Skate and you want a lot of it, this should be good news.
That being said, I think a lot of the concerns are valid. As we’ve seen from everything from Club Penguin to Dr. Mario World, and countless MMOs, online games can only exist for so long. Even Counter-Strike and Fortnite will one day lose their servers and become unplayable. Publishers like EA need to be doing a lot more to preserve their own games. When massive successes like Red Dead Online eventually shut down, I’d really like to see some kind of offline snapshot that people can still access. Video game preservation is important and we should take every opportunity to make that message clear, but just because that’s currently an issue with defunct online games doesn’t mean online games shouldn’t exist.
Microtransaction anxiety is another valid concern, but we’re running into a not-all-squares-are-rectangles problem here. Unless you’re vehemently against all microtransactions in all forms, period (and I believe most people are not that hardline against them) then what you’re really against is unfair or predatory microtransactions. I’m with you there, we all hate things that are bad, but there’s no reason to flood the comment section of every Skate post with your resentment towards back microtransactions. I hope the game doesn’t have bad microtrans just like I hope it doesn’t have bad music or bad level design. Free-to-play and live-service are not synonymous with evil in-app purchases, just as buy-to-play games aren’t automatically good. Did paying $60 for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 make it a good game? Sometimes games have bad monetization, and I’m vocal about it when they do, but I don’t see any reason to assume Skate will, and if it does we can criticize it then.
Skate is going to be a free game full of hats and stickers you don’t have to buy if you don’t want to. Other people will though, which means the game will continue to generate a profit and you’ll get to enjoy the benefits of other people spending money. The game will get bigger, more content will get added, and you’ll get to enjoy new Skate content long after you would’ve had it been a singular release. The live-service model means you’re getting more Skate for less money, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
And yes, someday Full Circle will stop making new content for Skate, but when that happens, whether it's in two years or 20, you won’t be worse off than you would have been if the studio had just released a game and moved on, or worse, shut down, which happens all the time. The issue of preservation remains, but I don’t think games should be designed around what they’ll become decades from now, they should be designed for people to play today. The preservation issue is real, even though I don’t believe there's more than a handful of people digging out their PS3 to play Skate 2 anyway, but that shouldn’t prevent live-service games from existing. I certainly don’t want every game to be free-to-play, but Skate should be, and I’m excited to see the massive online game it will one day grow into.
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