Arrowhead CEO says the 'live service' aspect of Helldivers 2 has to be secondary to delivering a 'full experience' for $40: 'We view ourselves as a live service game because it's unfair to say anything else'

 A soldier from Helldivers gives a patriotic salute while their comrade burns an alien corpse to death in the background.
A soldier from Helldivers gives a patriotic salute while their comrade burns an alien corpse to death in the background.
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There are a lot of live service games out there these days, and it's not a trend we wholeheartedly love. But amidst the formulaic deluge, some games get it right. Helldivers 2 is a great example of that—but in a new interview with PC Gamer, Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt sounded almost reluctant to embrace the label.

"We don't view ourselves—I mean, we view ourselves as a live service game because it's unfair to say anything else," Pilestedt said. "We are going to continue adding more stuff to the game, and there are monetization elements in the game."

But that aspect of the game has to "go hand-in-hand" with the base game, which Pilestedt said "should give you a full experience, like a really good several hours of good playtime." Further monetization should be entirely optional, and more importantly, shouldn't come into play until well after the experience of the base game is over.

"If you imagine what's what's happening with the game in year two, year three, year four, at that point you need to shift the the model where the content that we put out for free, like new enemies, new missions, whatever it might be, we also give the players the opportunity to support us in continuing to build the title," Pilestedt said. "And that kind of has always been our philosophy and any game that we've made so far. And we expect to continue having the same mentality for as long as we can."

Currently, Helldivers 2's primary monetization lever is a $10 premium "warbond" that offers a few extra guns, outfits, and weapon variants. Warbonds behave like battle passes in that you unlock them page-by-page, but you can't pay real money to skip tiers and they never expire. In a sense, they're more like mini expansions. Those distinctions have made them relatively popular with fans.

Pilestedt's approach to making and monetizing games is rooted at least in part in his background in the modding community on games like Quake and Half-Life. "I helped any mod team that I could with art, level, design, code, whatever it was," he said. "I got into all of them—a lot of them, at least. And the inspiration that we have for any title that we make is to mimic sort of the enthusiasm that existed back in the modding days between the mod team and the fans."

It's an approach that's working well. Despite a rough start with overloaded servers that led to a flurry of negative user reviews on Steam, Helldivers 2 has clawed its way back to a "mostly positive" rating across more than 152,000 reviews. More importantly, people are playing it in huge numbers: Three weeks after launch, it's still the number-three most-played game on Steam in terms of concurrents, with today's peak surpassing 372,000. Players are deeply committed to the game, especially now that the server issues are resolved, and there's genuine excitement for the future, which will include new goodies for players to wreak havoc with including—we're pretty sure on this one—mechs.

Pilestedt also talked about how Helldivers 2 is similar to D&D thanks to an all-powerful warmaster named Joel, whose behind-the-scenes machinations will ensure Super Earth's war against everything will grow "more and more sophisticated over time." You don't want to miss it—it's good stuff.