March 28, 2013
Multiplayer Isn’t Always Needed
There is a an interesting article that Games Industry International is running about Square Enix and the problems they face with a multitude of single-player IP’s. I am not here to say that Square Enix will have problems or that they need to focus on more multiplayer games, the suits will rule in whatever they decided is best for the company; though it may not be the best for the gamer. In particular they address Tomb Raider, the newly rebooted game from Crystal Dynamics. The game according to the article, have moved more than 3 million units, but has been deemed short of it’s sales projection. Since Square Enix acquired Eidos back in 2009, they have produced million unit selling games, that outside of Tomb Raider, had no multiplayer to speak of, this list includes Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Hitman: Absolution, Just Cause 2, and Sleeping Dogs. I have played all of these single player offerings, enjoying them greatly, and never once asking how could multiplayer fit it, outside of Just Cause 2. Just Cause 2 is a special case where, as we have seen on the PC, that it was ripe for co-op shenanigans, but a competitive mode is not needed.
Unfortunately in this generation the though of Call of Duty and a multiplayer mode to sell a game has the suits running for the hills and adding multiplayer to games that don’t need them. There seems to be this overlying thought that for a game to be successful it needs to sell Call of Duty like numbers and have a tastless tacked on multiplayer. I have my multiplayer standbys that I play online, Gears, Halo, Battlefield, and Mass Effect, typically I do not deviate unless it’s a racer or something like Street Fighter were I play a few rounds then head back to face the computer. I buy a lot of games for their stories and single player aspects. I played Tomb Raider’s multiplayer for a few hours and became bored and thought, there are better ways they could have spent the time and money, like more secret tombs or good structured single player DLC. I just finished Bioshock: Infinite last night, I can’t praise the game enough, but at no time did I sit back and say, I need co-op in this, or a multiplayer mode is really needed. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood tried a multiplayer mode, and for the most part worked and felt like a fit within the confines of the mechanics. Though they added multiplayer DLC, they offered single player DLC as well. If Square Enix wants to incorporate a shoehorned multiplayer mode in a game, they need to support what makes the game in something like Tomb Raider, the single player experience. With this past generation, having a easy way to connect with one another has been more of a hindrance with game design. Just because I can connect with people doesn’t mean I want to. As I have grown as a gamer, I enjoy more stories, better voice acting, unique gameplay ideas, and the thrill of being entertained. Now, I do enjoy a good co-op experience, but there is nothing really competitive, and enjoying a game that is built to tell a story with multiple people can be a blast. Some games, like the Gears of war franchise or Army of Two for example are better played with people than without.
Single player games can be social as well, without hindering the experience. Joe and I played both Fallout 3 and Skyrim. Though the games were built as massive single player experiences, Joe and I would play them and chat over Xbox Live, creating this social experience that required no online multiplayer. I think the single player appeal is why I covet my handhelds so much. Though there are online infrastructures, online games, and multiplayer on the handhelds, they are still more about the single player than anything. With the PlayStation 4 being able to record and share your gaming experiences in a social way, I hope that it takes the form of what Joe and I started in 2008, stories of experiences and not homophobic, racial 12-year olds showing me how they cheated in Call of Duty.
With Call of Duty selling less and less every year, maybe we can see companies like Square Enix, that are prolific at single player experiences, put more resources where they are needed to make the single player outshine any hint of needing a multiplayer. The single player AAA title is not dead, they maybe more niche at this time, but if there is anything we have seen is gaming has fads. Motion gaming was the talk of town; mobile gaming was to bring down the console industry; arcades are the only place to truly get the best experience; multiplayer first is the heated topic right now. As we have seen with all these fads, they don’t last. They are still there in some way or form, but not as prevalent as they once were.
I know I have talked about this topic in deep with my colleagues, in fact it came around again today. But what are your thoughts? Do you prefer multiplayer gaming to singleplayer? Are companies wrong for forcing multiplayer on us that would rather not have it? Comment below!