Is There Still a Place for Single-Player?

April 21, 2010 Written by Anthony Brown

Remember the good ol’ days when online multiplayer wasn’t even possible? Remember playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out or Super Mario Bros. 3 for hours on end? Who could resist Contra? From Sonic to Chrono Trigger, the games that turned us into life long gamers were nearly all single player.

Now, in this day and age, much of  a game’s success falls squarely to online multiplayer rather than a captivating single player campaign with great gameplay. There are many people out there who wont even consider a game without and online component citing if the game is over after one playthrough, it’s just not worth their hard earned cash. While I am all for getting the most bang for your buck, missing out on a great game because it lacks online multiplayer is flat out ridiculous. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with multiplayer, because some of the most intense gaming moments come from the unscripted action of an online shootout. Do I need online MP to justify the value of a game and ultimately if the game is worth my purchase? No.

So I ask you, is online multiplayer the key to game’s success?

Multi-player a necessity??

Many people will say no, but I’m not just asking all the gamers out there–I’m also questioning talented developers behind these games we love so very much. Sometimes it seems like developers are forced to apply online capabilities to every game in order to achieve success. It’s not their fault either, they are just giving gamers what they demand. There are also publishers breathing down developers’ necks to include online multiplayer, mainly so they can extend the life of a product and so they can make extra money with DLC.

Why is there such a need for multiplayer amongst today’s gamers? I could never even attempt to count the amount of times I have heard other gamers ridiculously say:

“I’d only buy the game if it had multiplayer”

I have even run into people that haven’t played the single-player campaign of certain games and have only played multiplayer. Sadly it seems as though many people are willing to forgo storylines, basic progressions, and boss fights that come with a single player experience.

Look at Warhawk and MAG for the PS3–these are games built solely around online multiplayer, and without a broadband connection, you’re pretty much screwed out of playing these great games. I wouldn’t even be surprised if more and more games started following this trend. However, this trend may be keeping these great titles out of the hands of many gamers around the globe. IWS clearly states that while roughly 76% of North America has penetrated into the Internet market, only 26% of the world’s population has.

Looking at sales, most of the the highest selling AAA titles such as the Halo series, the Gears of War series, KillZone 2, Modern Warfare 2, and Uncharted 2 all boast online capabilities. When Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune came out back in 2007, it was a great game, and sold millions of copies. Now with the release of the sequel, after the first title was criticized for not having multiplayer, Naughty Dog added the almost mandatory online multiplayer, and the result was multiple Game of the Year awards. Now ask yourself, would it have received such high rewards if there were no online capabilities? No one can say for sure, but I think not. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune certainly didn’t fare as well.

Many gamers rely on game reviews to help decided what game they’ll purchase. It seems most games get penalized now for not having online capabilities, which can harm the sales of games. In order to squeeze in multiplayer, thus ensuring a higher score for including online, some games seem to feature dumbed down single player modes.

" The gods can't stop my sales!"

Fortunately, there are still some great games that don’t have online capabilities, like God of War 3 and Heavy Rain, which have still achieved success. GOW3 amassed sales of nearly 2 million copies in its first month, but the way this industry trend toward mandatory online modes is progressing, I wouldn’t be shocked if the next installment were to have some type of online multiplayer. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but with competitive gaming on the rise, you can expect a lot of developers to incorporate multiplayer in order to achieve the success of the likes of Halo, which may be the most successful game franchise of this decade. I fear a future where all games are online only, to the exclusion of single-player. This might seem far fetched, but we also didn’t believe motion controlled gaming would catch on, and now they’re being incorporated into every game console thanks to the resounding success of the Nintendo Wii. Motion controls bring sales. Online games like Halo or Call of Duty bring sales. Sales are the ultimate goal of all developers, publishers, and console manufacturers alike. So whatever bandwagon is reigning in sales, these companies will jump on.  So I ask you… are you ready for a multiplayer-only future?