The life span of a video game is not infinite as many might think. Super Mario Bros. may still be around but the popularity of the game is only left to speed players. No average player would see Titanfall 2 and Super Mario Bros. and chose the Italian plumbers…
What I’m talking about is the “Half-life” a term used in the field of nuclear engineering that means the time taken for the radioactivity of a specified isotope to fall to half it’s original value. How does that pertain to video games you ask? Well it’s pretty simple; At some point in the life of a game the user base drops off so much that the only players left are skilled or fly-by-night-renters.
What this means is that the high number of players that purchased the game at the release of the title have gotten bored with it and/or moved on to another game that fancy marketing has push to distract them. The only players left are the hardcore, Semi-hardcore, and renters. Renters are usually more classified as people that went to that local used game whore house and purchased the game only to return it before the allotted time.
The time frame – or life span – for a game is about a year. So that means in six months after the release of the game you don’t have that many people playing. This is not to say you can’t still have fun. I’ve had plenty of very hardcore matches on games past six months. But what that does mean is the population is down, so the distance between winning and losing a match is usually VERY high. Whereas with higher population games the margin is much lower and the games have closer win to lose ratio’s. This is, of course, not universal.
Another interesting observation is the re-emergence of population at every new downloadable content (DLC) or any double experience point weekends (2xp). The number of players naturally rises for a very brief time during these events for obvious reasons.
And lastly is the end of life population. The end of life population is the player base around the ten to twelve month marker. Suddenly the price of the game is so low everyone is picking it up, usually around holiday seasons. And people are trying it out for the first time or coming back after betraying it for other less resilient titles.
The final conclusion is a two fold execution; The game goes into classic mode where only the most hardcore or un-adaptable player continue to play the game or it gets shoved over to the realm of an ancestor to the next iteration of the title.
All in all the half-life of a video game is usually determined by three factors. The first one being playibility and generally how enjoyable the game is to continue to repeat the processes of the game. Second is the freshness of the idea that developed the game; was it something new that is a possible “game changer” in the genera it’s located, is it a fresh remolding of a previous version etc. And the third one is how much or how little the developers of the title listen to the user base about the game.
It is the last one that kills games the fastest. Although what your about to read may seem backwards, trust me, I’ve witnessed it so many times now it’s predictable. I’ll boil this down quickly; the more they listen and change their game the faster the half life comes into play. The idea is simple, they create a game that everyone loves, sure there was a few balancing issue they didn’t catch right at the beginning. Change them and your done, a complete game. The problem comes (the half-life creeping closer and closer) as the developers listen to the ranting and complaining of there user base. Most of this complaining comes down to them not being able to use whatever they are complaining about or it being used on them more than they would like.
Over all the effect is always the same for every game. The half-life is inevitable and predictable. So if you are playing a game and you seem to notice the teams are always off balance and/or the point spread is drastic, this is usually why. The only solutions to this are to only play on the weekends or move to another game.