Warner Bros. is doubling down on free-to-play, live-service and mobile – WGB


During a recent Morgan Stanley speaking event, Warner Bros. Discovery gaming boss J.B. Perrette addressed the company’s plans going forward in the gaming space and has also seemingly confirmed what we all feared: they haven’t learned anything from Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League and intend on chasing the free-to-play and live-service markets even more aggressively.

The talk of gaming came in the closing minutes. Perrette described Warner Bros. as a historically console-focused company creating triple-A games, but he described that market as very volatile.

“As you know, that’s a great business when you have a hit like Harry Potter, it makes the year look amazing, and then when you don’t have a release, or unfortunately we also have disappointments – we just release Suicide Squad this quarter which was not as strong. It just makes it very volatile.”

Hogwarts Legacy, of course, was the best-selling game in the world in 2023, managing to shift an incredible 22m copies. Meanwhile, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, which was positioned as a live-service game, has struggled to find an audience.

Truthfully, while Perrette’s comments have sparked intense backlash, I do see their point. The triple-A gaming space has seen budgets skyrocket and development times lengthen, so any triple-A title that fails to make a dent, like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, is a massive monetary loss.

However, his comments also feel tone-deaf and ignorant. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League failed because it was a premise nobody wanted featuring characters people aren’t interested in bolted to a live-service looter-shooter that nobody asked for which took an ungodly amount of time to develop. And yet, Perrette’s response is that Warner Bros. wants to delve even deeper into the live-service hellscape.

“We’re doubling down on games as an area where we think there is a lot more growth opportunity that we can tap into with the IP that we have and some of the capabilities we have on the studio where we’re uniquely positioned as both a publisher and a developer of games,” Perrette said.

He also talks more specifically about those IPs, stating that the company’s gaming business is built around four key IPs: Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Mortal Kombat and DC.

“Rather than just launching a one-and-done console game, how do we develop a game around, for example, a Hogwarts Legacy or Harry Potter, that is a live service where people can live and work and build and play in that world in an ongoing basis?” he continued.

To that end, Perrette stated that Warner Bros. is looking to focus more heavily on live service, free-to-play and mobile gaming with the goal being to give them a more “holistic” business model and more reliable income.

However, the free-to-play and live-service landscapes are already over-saturated and dominated by a couple of key players. Warner Bros. wants its slice of the Fortnite pie while ignoring the growing piles of live service and free-to-play corpses, all chasing the same thing. It’s almost like Warner Bros.’s answer to Suicide Squad failing is to double down on what makes Suicide Squad fail.

But there’s always a chance. The massive success of Helldivers 2 proves that there are still niches to be carved out. The key, of course, is that Helldivers 2 is an excellent game first and foremost, and a live-service title second that earns its monetization. Nowhere in Perrette’s statement does he address the simple idea that making a good game needs to come first and that being a good game based on a popular license made Hogwarts Legacy incredibly successful without the need for season passes or boosters.

Mind you, he was talking at a Morgan Stanley event which is aimed at shareholders, so that audience probably isn’t interested in the finer details of the gaming landscape.

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