Splitgate: A lesson in Live Service Gaming

Splitgate is a free-to-play multiplayer first-person shooter that has been described as “Portal meets Halo”. The game allowed players to create wormhole portals on the map and use them to outsmart and outplay their opponents. The game featured various modes, maps, weapons, and customization options, as well as ranked and social playlists. Splitgate was developed by 1047 Games, a small studio based in Nevada that was founded by two Stanford graduates who started working on the game as a school project.

Struggling from success

Splitgate was actually first released in 2019 as Splitgate: Arena Warfare, but the fact of the matter is that the original version of the game was more than worthy of its “Early Access” status. While many of those who played it early on recognized its potential, it was more of a curiosity at that time than a fully realized experience. The game suffered from low player counts, lack of content updates, technical issues, and poor marketing. The game was overshadowed by other popular shooters such as Apex Legends, Call of Duty, and Fortnite, and failed to attract a loyal fan base.


Beta Release

Things changed dramatically for Splitgate in 2021, when the game launched its beta version on consoles (PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S) with cross-play support. The game received a massive influx of new players who were intrigued by its unique portal mechanic and nostalgic Halo-inspired gameplay. The game also benefited from positive word-of-mouth, streamer exposure, and media coverage. The game quickly rose to the top of the Steam charts and surpassed 10 million downloads in less than a month.

The sudden popularity of Splitgate was unexpected by the developers and led to the game going offline several times to fix server issues. The game’s servers could only hold 65,000 players at launch, but soon reached over 100,000 concurrent players. The developers had to increase their server capacity multiple times and implement a queue system to limit the number of players logging onto the game. They also had to postpone the official release of the game from July 27 to August 25, and then indefinitely, while they worked on improving the game’s stability and performance.

Live Service Failure

Live service gaming is often heralded as the future of the industry. But it’s easy to forget that for every Fortnite or Destiny, there are countless live service gambles that fall flat or outright fail.The resilience and popularity of other shooters and battle royale games such as Apex Legends, Fortnite and Valorant has created a fiercely competitive market, and combined with its other development issues Splitgate’s novelty quickly wore off. 

On paper, the creators of Splitgate did everything right. They copied all the industry best practices, raised a mountain of venture capital funding and hired experienced developers from big-name studios. But the tricky nature of live service gaming makes it difficult to predict when a game might succeed better as a one-off hit or when it needs to be updated constantly to keep players coming back and what it might take to pull off such a feat.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out more content on Poggers Memes. If you enjoy immersive sims check out our history of design article about them.

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