How Did 'Dead Game' Become an Insult?

Gamers used to measure the success of a game in how many copies are sold. Now it's being measured in the number of concurrent players.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/m7vjnp/how-did-dead-game-become-an-insult
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I think it’s an outcropping of the anxieties that every one of these communities must feel due to the restrictions of capitalism. Once these games stop making money, the funnel of content and new is going to be turned off, and maybe the company pulls the plug entirely. That means you have an implicit competition with every other game of the type. A WoW player shouldn’t feel terrified of FFXIV blowing up the charts, but if all the energy goes there, that’s it, the party is over. I’m sure somebody out there was really interested in where the over-arching Avengers game storyline was going, and that won’t ever reach its planned conclusion once that game is shut down by 2023 or whatever.

This is why I prefer communities of already dead games, like Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. All the energy and development in those spaces are done by fan mods, and RCT2 is better than ever now, nearly twenty years after it released. There’s splendid pieces of art being made by small hyper-dedicated people. Sure, you won’t get Pete Davidson or something to do a cameo, but we don’t need to worry about Atari controlling the space. You can make your own Pete Davidson if you want.

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And, explicitly, that second point is why - despite the attempt of the article to frame it more neutrally - the “live service” model for video games is a disaster for all kinds of reasons. (It means, for a start, that games can and will just vanish as soon as they get unpopular.)

At least with non-live service games, as you note, the game is still around [modulo license keys - the lesson of the original Prey is not forgotten - but DRM is another issue we can talk about that’s sort of related here] and can still be played by people.

For modern games, “dead game” often means “completely vanished from existence game”.

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All online games should release dedicated server software and include a server browser in the client.

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I believe from a consumer protection and safety standpoint, providing dedicated servers should be legally required in online games, free or paid (with a cap). It’s been no secret to many of us in the discourse that online interactions, in general, are a matter of public safety and moderation is nearly impossible.

I’d also legislate that all builds of software (game or utility) and any server software must be made publicly available to a public repository x number of years after it’s deprecated and all versions immediately upon sales of it ceasing. It’s the 21st century and software is history.

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After the game goes out-of-service and no one can get at any behind-the-scenes stuff anymore. I have nightmares of someone not properly scrubbing the code and leaving in something internal and some clever programmer makes off with PSI.

It doesn’t even have to involve money. I’ve seen the word thrown around with free mods that have 300 active players :expressionless:

Yeah you’re right it isn’t CoD level players but it’s a small dedicated group of people playing it so it can hardly be considered dead.

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I think tobascodagama was more meaning a closed source dedicated server (like, eg, all multiplayer games pretty much used to have), which would make those kind of leaks a bit less likely than an open-sourced version. Of course, PSI can be leaked by them too - but that’s also an argument to avoid lax security design (and overcollection of data from users!) too.

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I think StarCraft 2 was one of the first games to be popularly referred to as “dead game”. It is/was a massively popular game by most metrics (2 million active monthly players) but this pales in comparison to the genre that its predecessor WarCraft 3 spawned, the MOBA. The most popular MOBAs get hundreds of millions of players, so StarCraft’s 2 million (that’s still a lot of people!!!) makes it dead game, somehow.

As a StarCraft 2 player I was never really insulted by people calling it dead game, mostly insulted on behalf of every single other game that had less than 2 million active players, which is probably 99% of online multiplayer games.

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Remember when Blizzard announced they were no longer doing esports for Heroes of the Storm and instantly it became a dead game despite people still playing and enjoying it?

At what point did the idea that a game could no longer be played at an esports competitive level and only enjoyed for what it was make it a dead game?

Esports is interesting but I feel like on a whole it has made gaming so much more incredibly toxic.

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Reading through this, I can only think about the drive for infinite sustainable growth that is pervasive in all forms of business at this point. If a game no longer has the capability to grow, it’s dead, regardless of whether or not people are still playing and enjoying it. It’s not even just about profit, if there’s not a hook to bring more people in, then they know current players will slowly fall off of it, so it’s best to just pull those resources and put it elsewhere, even if the game is still turning a profit. Plenty of good ideas that are still worthwhile are canned and money moved elsewhere if companies think they can make money more efficiently.

As far as keeping servers up, I’m of two minds. Plenty of games that I love and would love to revisit just aren’t possible given that the servers have long been taken offline. But trying to keep servers up for every game like that would be a pretty large use of resources, would it not? At least, once you start trying to account for all games that would require servers in that way.

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While the term is silly I do think the concept is useful when deciding whether or not to get into on online game. Attempting to get into a game where the servers are populated by experienced veterans often means getting stomped by people using strategies you don’t really understand. This can be a huge issue in fighting games. Lack of updates can also mean that a game’s meta has become calcified and dull. DOTA Underlords used to be my go-to game for keeping my hands occupied while I watched TV. But once it stopped getting updates every game played out the same way nearly every time.

So the good thing about the cloud is that you don’t necessarily have to have them on 24/7. AWS, GCP, Azure, etc are all built with the idea that you can just spin up and turn off resources as need be and even in regions as need be.

Take Call of Duty as an example. Activision could just create a master server image that gets spun up when a request comes in for a server and after a period of no activity turn the instance off. This of course all costs money but I also don’t see why games can’t be built with a model in mind that offsets the costs of the server to the users when an hour of running it is like fifty cents.

Yeah it’s a small enough value that realistically they should just maintain it out of goodwill but justifying it to morally bankrupt people requires assuring them that it doesn’t impact them and in fact it’s good for business.

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Yeah, I guess I was thinking more of energy resources, especially given the ongoing conversations around crypto, but that makes sense. I figured that the widespread use of AWS and others for server use greatly simplified things compared to when everything was run on Gamespy.

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when teamfighttactics came out so many people declared DOTA AutoChess a dead game despite the fact that its still getting regular updates rn.
there were also matchmaking issues but there always were

I mean, were things actually run on GameSpy? I remember it just being an indexing service for privately run servers (which ran on home PCs, like everything used to).

Nintendo Wi-Fi connection ran on gamespy

Right, but that was ‘just’ matchmaking too, right, not actual servers themselves.

You are correct on that.

Final Fantasy XI is still getting updates every month.