Games that run as services will inevitably shut down — and developers need to have a plan ready to go well before that point, according to a talk given by Microsoft executive producer Kevin Perry at Game Developers Conference 2014.
"I have bad news for you," Perry said. "Whatever game you're currently working on or dreaming up, it's going to pass at some point."
Titled "The Inevitable Sunset," the talk brought up the financial, legal and community-related questions developers need to ask themselves while considering their game's end. It starts with the trigger point, or the cause that will ultimately force the game to end.
"Death is different for games," Perry said. "Your players live on, hopefully. Your company hopefully lives on as well ... What we're trying to achieve here is a good death. Your goal should be to have the run room to decide a year in advance to shut your game down."
During this process, developers need to consider if their distribution model can be reversed, where game copies exist and how to shutdown the game without exposing personal information, among other things. It's a long laundry list of questions that ultimately answer how to end the game without hurting an individual or their company.
"You need to be able to deal with their human grief."
The game's community is an essential component of these discussions as well. Players go through a grieving process, Perry said, citing the City of Heroes shutdown as "fast for the playerbase."
"My recommendation to you is to tell the player as far in advance as possible," Perry said.
During this player grieving process, he continued, developers should be aware that the community will try to save the game.
"They're going to come to you with outlandish plans," Perry said. "You need to be able to deal with their human grief without putting yourself in any legal, business or other aspects, but that community of players is valuable to you. Can you keep them alive after the game?"
Companies can do this in several ways, whether it's offering compensation in other games or keeping the community engaged through social media. Of course, developers should also be forewarned that some players will respond in an aggressive way — even going as far as to file lawsuits.
"Plan for the best case," Perry said. "Plan for the worst case. It's going to be somewhere in that bellcurve."