Skip to content

To Live or Not to Live: The Pros and Cons of Creating a Live Game vs. a Non-Live Game

In this chapter of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Launching Live Service Games, we explore a critical decision that confronts game developers: the dilemma of choosing between developing a live game or a non-live game.

Making an informed decision requires knowing the main distinctions between these two strategies. This article explores the intricacies of live and non-live games, their respective benefits and drawbacks, factors to consider when deciding between the two, and strategies for overcoming challenges in live game development.

What is a live game?

A live game is a video game that prioritizes continuous engagement and interaction with players. Unlike traditional games that have an end to their development cycle, live games provide ongoing updates, expansions, and new content over an extended period. Live games strongly emphasize player interaction and community building and often employ various monetization strategies to generate revenue. The objective is to develop a dynamic, engaging experience that keeps players interested in the game for a prolonged period.

In contrast, non-live games are standalone experiences without consistent updates and generally have a finite gameplay lifespan. Non-live games are standalone experiences without regular updates or expansions. Upon release, they offer a complete narrative or gameplay experience and primarily generate revenue through initial sales. Choosing between developing a live game versus a non-live game can be influenced by variables such as target audience, game type, the development team's skills, and market trends.

Benefits of creating a live game

Live games provide a win-win situation for players and developers thanks to an immersive player experience, improved customer retention, and sustainable income creation.

Enhanced Player Experience

A live game offers unparalleled engagement for players, providing them with a more immersive and captivating experience. Unlike games with a definitive end, many live games may offer updates to keep the player further engaged. 

For example, developers may release campaigns related to current events or popular topics. A game can create excitement and keep players interested if it delivers unique events or missions based on actual occurrences. Another example is celebrating in-game anniversaries, where creators plan special events or incentives to recognize significant turning points in the game's history. As a result, players may feel more part of the game, which may motivate them to keep playing. Lastly, remixing the game's content for new and unique experiences can add freshness to the gameplay and make it more engaging.

This open-ended nature of gameplay keeps players motivated and challenged as they strive for personal improvement and mastery. With no limits to their progress, players can fully immerse themselves in the game's world, creating a deep sense of engagement and satisfaction.

Increased Customer Retention and Community Building

The continuous engagement offered by a live game fosters strong customer retention and cultivates a dedicated community of players. As players become deeply invested in the game, they develop a sense of loyalty and attachment. This sense of belonging to a vibrant gaming community further strengthens player retention as players actively participate in discussions, events, and competitions. The shared experiences and interactions within the community create a strong camaraderie, enhancing the overall gaming experience and keeping players coming back for more.

Sustainable Revenue Generation

Live gaming promotes excellent customer retention and builds a passionate player base. By continuously offering new features, items, and content packs, developers provide players with enticing opportunities for in-game purchases. This adds value to the player experience and generates revenue for the developers. The steady income stream enables the game's creators to invest in the game's continuous development and provide frequent updates, enhancements, and expansions. This revenue-driven model ensures the longevity and success of the live match, benefiting both players and developers.

Drawbacks of creating a live game

On the contrary, there are a handful of downsides to producing a live game. From ongoing costs and financial burdens to the pressure of meeting player expectations and the risk of losing the player base, navigating these drawbacks requires careful consideration. 

Ongoing Costs and Financial Burden

Ongoing costs associated with operating a live game can pose a significant drawback for developers. Unlike non-live games, live games demand continuous server maintenance, customer support, and infrastructure upkeep. These continuing costs can accumulate over time and strain the development team's financial resources. Additionally, as the player base grows, the costs associated with scaling up the game's infrastructure and server capacity also increase. Maintaining these ongoing costs can become challenging—especially for smaller studios with limited resources.

Pressure to Meet Player Expectations

Player expectations for ongoing content updates and expansions can pressure the development team immensely. In a live game, players anticipate regular updates, new features, and expansions to keep the game fresh and exciting. Meeting and exceeding customer expectations requires a dedicated team of developers who can consistently deliver high-quality content within tight timelines. The constant demand for new content can lead to burnout and compromise the quality of the updates. Failing to meet player expectations can result in player dissatisfaction and a drop in popularity.

Risk of Losing Player Base

Arguably one of the most significant risks associated with a live game is the potential failure to maintain its player base over time. Today, players have thousands of options to choose from. If a live game fails to produce engaging updates, address player concerns, or provide meaningful content, players may lose interest and move on to other games. This can lead to a dwindling player base, making it challenging to sustain the game's ecosystem and revenue stream. There is little value to continuing live game production if a consistent and dedicated player base is lacking.

Live games vs. non-live games: Factors to consider

Understanding the difference between the two types is just the beginning. Factors that developers should consider when deciding whether to create a live game or a non-live game vary depending on several key aspects. 
  • Target audience preferences: Determine if the intended player base is more inclined towards continuous engagement and long-term progression or a self-contained experience with a definitive end.
  • Game genre: Certain genres, such as MMOs or online multiplayer games, lend themselves more naturally to live game formats due to their social and interactive nature.
  • Development team's capabilities: Assess the team's expertise and experience in ongoing content updates, community management, and server infrastructure management, which are crucial for live game development.
  • Financial resources: Evaluate the economic viability of sustaining ongoing costs of operating a live game, such as server maintenance, customer support, and infrastructure upkeep.
  • Market trends: Analyze current trends in the gaming industry and determine if the target audience actively seeks live games or if there is still a demand for non-live games with focused narratives or single-player experiences.

Live Games vs. Non-Live Games: Key Metrics

From player engagement and in-game monetization metrics to player progression and satisfaction indicators, understanding the key metrics is vital for optimizing game development. Dive into the details and unlock valuable insights to drive the success of your game.

Measuring Success in Live Games: Key Metrics

Standard metrics used to measure the success of a live game differ significantly from those used for a non-live game. In the context of live games, player engagement metrics take center stage. These include metrics such as:

  • Daily Active Users (DAU): The number of unique users actively engaging with the game daily.
  • Monthly Active Users (MAU): The number of individual users actively engaging with the game within a month.
  • Average Session Length: A player's average time in a single gaming session.
  • Retention Rate: The percentage of players who continue to play or engage with the game over a specific period.
  • Average Revenue per User (ARPU): The average revenue generated per user.
  • Lifetime Value (LTV): The predicted total revenue a player is expected to create throughout their entire lifespan as a game customer.

Overcoming Challenges in Developing a Live Game

Developing a live game comes with its fair share of challenges. From managing ongoing costs and retaining players to balancing content updates and maintenance tasks, navigating these obstacles requires careful planning and effective strategies. 

Managing Ongoing Costs of Operating a Live Game

Ongoing costs can quickly deplete your resources if you and your team are unprepared. Analyze and optimize server infrastructure to minimize costs without compromising performance. Utilizing cloud-based solutions and scalable architecture can help scale resources based on player demand and, as a result, reduce unnecessary expenses. Additionally, exploring alternative monetization methods, such as in-game advertisements, can provide additional revenue streams to offset operating costs. Regular evaluation of operational expenses and identifying areas for cost optimization are crucial to maintaining financial sustainability in the long term.

Retaining Players and Preventing Churn in a Live Game

With no definitive end, how do developers ensure players stay interested? Building a solid community and fostering player engagement through social features, forums, and events encourages player retention. Implementing a robust player feedback system and promptly addressing player concerns and suggestions helps to enhance the player experience, foster loyalty, and reduce churn. Monitoring player engagement metrics, analyzing player behavior, and proactively addressing factors contributing to churn are vital for maintaining a thriving player base.

Balancing Content Updates with Maintenance Tasks

Developers must strike a balance between the requirement for continuing bug fixes and other maintenance duties in a live game. A stable and bug-free gaming environment may be maintained while still providing users with fresh and intriguing content. A fluid gameplay experience is guaranteed by prioritizing essential bug fixes, performance enhancements, and scheduled content updates. Regular communication with the player community about impending upgrades, bug fixes, and maintenance plans is necessary to manage player expectations and uphold openness.

To Live or Not to Live?

There are several benefits and drawbacks to consider when creating a live game. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what type of game you want to create and the amount of resources you have available. Creating a live game for the first time? Follow The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Launching Live Service Games to understand the game development process. Check out the next chapter, Prototyping and Continuous Playtesting for Live Game Development today!

Interested in how AccelByte can help with your backend needs? Request a demo.

Find a Backend Solution for Your Game!

Reach out to the AccelByte team to learn more.