Just Cause 2 may seem like a weird role model for traditional, single-player games. After all, the 2010 open-world shooter is mostly known for it ridiculousness. It’s a game that let’s you tie a car to an airplane, all while encouraging you blow up anything and everything possible. Critically, Just Cause 2 has a very respectable 84 average on Metacritc. Good, but nothing remarkable.
So, how does this game, which came out back in 2010, still have half a million unique, active players every month?
“That’s a lot of people still engaged in the game, and some of the players have been there each month for the past six months,” Square Enix chief executive officer of Europe and the U.S. Phil Rogers told Games Industry International, “We couldn’t have seen this when the game was originally designed. It’s something Christofer Sundberg from Avalanche and I talk about a lot. So it’s incredible to look at facts like that and to challenge our teams building new games to think about long-term engagement.”
Square Enix puts that sort of long-term engagement over the recent trend for “games as service,” a phrase used to describe the industry’s move to free-to-play platforms and microtransactions. “There’s lots of talk in the industry about games becoming services — to be honest, as an expression this doesn’t always resonate with people, especially gamers,” Rogers told Games Industry International. “For us, online is a way to facilitate how we’re looking at the word service to build on a game. So we’re focusing on regular content updates, engaging gameplay mechanics, replayability, and deep community.”
So while it may seem weird for Square Enix, a company best known by many for Japanese role-playing series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, to highlight a quirky title from its Eidos brand (a European publisher that Square bought in 2009), Just Cause 2 actually perfectly fits Rogers’ criteria.
Just Cause 2 has found long-term success not because of money-sucking microtransactions or a competitive multiplayer mode, but simply because it’s a fun open-world game that encourages players to goof around. A community of modders have have also helped increase its lifespan with fan-made creations, including one that supports multiplayer.
Just Cause 2 has found a way to entertain players long after many other 2010 releases have become irrelevant. Sure, part of that is thanks to some pretty generous sales, but its clear that the open-world shooter has made a surprisingly large impact. If you’re talking about “long-term engagement,” than Just Cause 2 is the perfect role model.