I feel we’re discussing two slightly different things here. I’m not denying that older games weren’t profitable enough for their own business model at the time, however that does not mean that they were a) reliable revenue streams or b) comparable in their development or overarching business model and strategy to something like Evolve or SWBF2.
So what if CoD was profitable? That doesn’t mean that they knew that the next game wouldn’t somehow be a flop for some reason. Their fiscal cycles are rooted in the past performance of the games they’ve created, combined with any budgets that may or may not be inflated to create the next in the series, and then balance on performance at release.
What you’ve posted above doesn’t necessarily show companies getting greedy, it shows companies trying to take the chance out of the equation. It doesn’t necessarily show them doing it well, but if they’re sitting on data that says that people play and engage with MP vastly more than single player, then of course the natural route to try and create a more sustainable income is to tap that resource.
You then get in to the mess that is gamer perception vs whatever business reality may or may not exist with a need for an upfront cost as well as the MTX model that goes with it. I also don’t think that, given what we’ve seen with SWBF2 and Evolve, you can say there is any evidence that MTX models couldn’t be more profitable if it weren’t for the very vocal campaigns carried out by a minority of gamers with a lot of time on their hands. I remember the outcries about the CoD games as they added more MTX, I remember the efforts made to try and get the games boycotted. These games, as with SW and Evolve, get review bombed, even without the controversy this seeds doubt in the product in an unfair manner to people that may not have any qualms with the business model.
It does not matter, at the end of the day, if the old way was profitable AS GAMERS because AS GAMERS that old way is actually a terrible consumer situation to be in. The old way could be more or less profitable, but as gamers we should be encouraging publishers to come up with the right way to make their games a) fiscally sound over multiple years so that b) they can be supported and nurtured for multiple years.
As a gamer I do not want to be in a situation where I have to pay $60 every few years to continue to enjoy a game series, because if I don’t the playerbase will die off as it moves without me. I don’t want to be in the situation where the conventional gamer thing to do is to leave a game after a year or two “because it’ll be dead soon anyway”. I don’t want to be in the position as an ethical gamer where my purchasing practices are encouraging developers to be worked to the bone on crazy deadlines, possibly to be laid off afterwards, as part of a revolving door industry of trying to get the big titles produced for less and less money as time goes on.
Take Evolve, I wanted that game to last and last, I wanted it to have a 5-10 year lifespan where the developers were excited to explore their own universe and keep creating content for it, where I knew that my money was going to sustaining the product I love (directly and indirectly in terms of what it means to the publisher) rather than just ensuring that shareholders can breathe a sigh of relief, draw down their dividend and then pressure the publisher for their next big windfall. I didn’t want to be looking over my shoulder for an “Evolve 2” that forced other players to doubt it’s longevity and consider other games after a while, I wanted it to be a game where the community lived and thrived over those years because there was a solid foundation for supporting it that wasn’t in doubt.
But here we are, living under conditions that are set by a set of gamers that are incapable of changing their perspective to deal with a new way of having to develop games, because they’re hung up on concepts like the base price of a game and the “day 1” value of said game, and have a complete us vs them mentality with publishers (and developers by extension) that limits what should be a symbiotic relationship between the two that means high profits are the result of a good game and shouldn’t be frowned upon.
I’m tired of hearing “money grabbing” and such nonsense in regards to this stuff because at the end of the day if what the publisher is selling isn’t good enough the relationship between gamer and community should be one that finds a path. Credit drop too low, system too much like gambling, progression feels bogged down? There should be an easy way to resolve these problems. This blame doesn’t lie all at the feet of the reddit-esque gaming community of course, publishers are idiots for not testing their desired plans out with more amenable (but able to be objective) gaming groups, something like loot crates shouldn’t have made it past some focus groups before any public beta. But I will say the blame lies mostly with gamers because it is they that are creating this atmosphere of distrust within the development community that any kind of engagement or conversation won’t be treated in a childish manner.
The bottom line is that all of this talk about profitability and success is only made to obfuscate a seriously vitally needed conversation about the future of how games are developed and supported. I don’t care for those people who want their game to be a $60 drop and then no other cost, because those people are going to kill the possibility of ever having a community focused high-end MP only game produced that fulfills the “live service” dream that currently only the MOBA (and arguably MMORPG) community are enjoying.
The choice being made here isn’t about ethics, or about what is acceptable business practice. It happens to coincide with a genuine issue on loot boxes which I’m more than happy to see getting progress, but I think it is naive to believe that the majority of gamers getting riled up about this genuinely care about whether some person with a gambling problem living on their own in Estonia gets into huge financial trouble because of over-buying loot boxes, I 100% guarantee the same community would hang any such person out to dry as an idiot that should “know better” because gamers seem to be especially blind to mental health issues.
No the choice actually being made here, whether or not the pitchfork of gamers can see it or not, is about whether or not games should be produced as if they are going to die in 2 years or not, and currently… somehow… in this fucking crazy upside down time we’re living in, the gamers are winning in making that 2 year death cycle happen.