In more recent years, games have taken a more social aspect in their design. I’m of course referring to online multiplayer; the bug that’s currently biting its way through the gaming world. However, single Player seems to be taking a backseat in this. So this article will discuss the question many of us dread and fear to ask; are single player games dying out?
For many, MANY years, single player has been the ruling overlord. Almost every game was single player-focused, and these often had amazing storylines, worlds and characters, and made us fall in love with it. But some of us (myself included, at times) said to ourselves “I wish I could play this with my friends”. Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy a vibrant world where we can battle monsters and such with friends?
But then online multiplayer began to rear its head, and we were introduced to a whole new beast. MMORPGs, such as Runescape and World of Warcraft, dominated the PC RPG community, and were basically pure multiplayer. Over on the console side, games began adding on multiplayer modes, such as Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield being the big FPS multiplayer contenders. However, while we were too busy shooting other players and leveling up, we didn’t notice that single player began to slack, until it was too late. Sure, you can argue “if you want a good single player, go play a single player game”. But what does this mean? That we should accept that multiplayer takes priority over single player? I argue that, in many cases, that’s just not true.
I would argue that multiplayer can actually kill a good series, if it means the single player suffers. But don’t misunderstand me. I do enjoy multiplayer in certain games, such as the Souls series, Dying Light, and even Battlefield. But when it means the single player is put on the back-burner, and because of this a weaker and less enjoyable experience, then it shows how multiplayer has killed the series. I’ll take the Assassin’s Creed and COD series as my examples of where this happened. I’ve played the early games of both series, and some of the later entries. And i hated it. The multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed caused the single player to take a massive fall, as Ubisoft focused on making multiplayer modes. I didn’t play any Assassins Creed game past 3, because it was such a disappointment, as well as Revelations, that it put me off the rest.
And then we come to COD, which is perhaps the poster game for multiplayer games. But COD started off as a single player-only, and they were great games. My personal favourite was COD: Big Red One. The story was full of twists and turns, and I actually felt an emotional connection to the characters (a surprise for a COD game, isn’t it?), and so when characters began dying, it was incredibly sad. However, since they added multiplayer, the COD games have taken a dive on the single player side, and gotten worse and worse (hell, Black Ops 3 just lets you access every mission in the campaign from the get-go, taking away the classic “unlock as you go” style, just to focus on multiplayer and zombies mode). Because of this, I didn’t play a COD game past Modern Warfare 3. You can argue that I’m missing out on the multiplayer “fun”, but the multiplayer has also taken a nosedive (Advanced Warfare was a mess and pay-to-win).
Of course, we have to discuss the other beast in this, when talking about multiplayer vs single player – multiplayer-only games. I’m not referring to MMOs exactly, and will mostly leave them out. I mean the games where there is no single player; campaign is now a multiplayer-focused ordeal, such as Evolve and Brink (an old game), or take out the campaign completely, such as Battlefront. These style of games have been around for a long time, and if I’m honest, I do enjoy some of these games, if executed properly. Evolve and Brink I did enjoy, despite the negative feedback they got. The problem is that when they remove the single player, they are throwing all their eggs in the multiplayer basket, and to do this successfully requires a perfect multiplayer that will keep players interested for a long time. For me, Battlefront failed that, and lost my interest surprisingly quick.
“But what about all the epic single player games that came out last year? Surely that shows that single player isn’t dying out??” I hear you cry. And yes, the games that came out last year (these are pure single player-only games I’m talking about; Fallout 4, Witcher 3, Life Is Strange, etc) are evidence of how single player isn’t dead. But, look at how many games came with multiplayer put in. And honestly, these games had problems. Fallout 4, for example, once done with the main quest and major side quests, became very dull, with the only quest being the ones given by Preston Garvey to reclaim settlements, which actually killed the game for me. It shows that, despite single players not being dead, they are beginning to decline in quality.
That’s my personal opinion, of course, but the community is often of different opinion from me. There were a few agreements when asked, however. One user says:
“MP games & the lack of campaign/story is happening, but I believe last year proved they’re not dead. Look at Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Life is Strange, and many, many more.
Do I like that games like Destiny, SWBF, or Division are being claimed to be great games? No, in short.”
However, many of you disagreed with the statement, that multiplayer is killing single player, and argued that it’s due to the company shifting focus. One user stated:
“Single Player games are not quite dying out. Lately I have noticed a very rapid decline in quality single player content in games that include Multiplayer aspects. Metal Gear Solid V however broke that mold in recent times, but was released as a single player experience only at launch with multiplayer being added on later. The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games have timelessly delivered quality content…Lastly Bloodborne, a FromSoft masterpiece, was my vote for game of the year as it had everything a single player game should have; solid action and mechanics an amazing story that the player could discover if they so chose to and the game offered CHALLENGE, something MANY games today lack to cater to the more casual market. Not that it is a bad thing for a company to want to make profit, just please produce something for the rest of us sometimes too. To get back on point, these are the ONLY titles within the last few years to deliver a solid single player gaming experience. Looking at the blockbusters in the last decade we have Call of Duty with fairly generic “We’re at war!” story lines. Battlefields story has also been lack luster since Battlefield 2. Next we have The Witcher 3 which many people have voted in as game of the year in 2015…a mistake from my perspective. The Witcher games have always had nightmare problems with ever-growing graphical problems, clipping textures and uninteresting characters, quests and combat…So while single player games might not be dying out per say. They are however seeing MUCH less love in developers eyes to their multiplayer counterparts.”
Another user argued that;
“No but multiplayer is being ham-fisted in so it can be more widely marketed and the game as a whole usually suffers. Single player campaign time dwindles so they can work in multiplayer. Development is rushed in general nowadays.”
One user agreed with these, and said:
“I don’t think it’s necessarily that single player games are dying out but more or less where companies are starting to put their money and what they’re concentrating on. Let’s look at FF7. Arguably the best video game of all time. Why is that? Because the time and care that went into the story, the gameplay and all the little details are so extensive and well taken care of and invested by the creators who put a LOT of money into it. Where is the money right now? Online gaming like call of duty and mobile games. Why is that? They’re easy to make/replicate and they can put them out fast. Companies know this and only care about profits nowadays. Look at what happened with Konami and Kojima. Kojima was condemned from the company because he spent too much time investing into the game and all the little details that he didn’t even end up with the actual finished product he wanted…This is what is happening to the video game industry in my opinion.”
However, one user disagreed that companies are killing single player, and argued that multiplayer is just growing:
“No. The online multiplayer universe is just growing bigger every year. Games like Witcher, DMC (ok has leaderboard online but no real coop or vs mode) and Darksiders will always have their own market. They might implement co-op horde modes like Mass Effect or Dragon Age has done. But there are more than enough games that will always remain single player only.”
One user argued that it isn’t dying per se, but it depends more on what genre it is, that decides if single player is taking the backseat:
“As an older gamer I think that it depends on the genre of the game being played, the likes of COD/Battlefield I have never bothered with the single player mode instead choosing to hop straight into the multi player action, games like GTA have an enjoyable story mode as well as multiplayer so I’ve tried to do both, sports games on the other hand I prefer the single player gameplay over online multiplayer, this is probably down to the fact that I don’t get to spend much time gaming due to other commitments, so it’s much easier to shoot someone on Battlefield than it is to out skill them on FIFA.”
Have your own opinion on it? Do you agree that multiplayer is killing single player, or another factor that is killing it off? With the increase in multiplayer-only games, could we soon be seeing these as the only form of game in the future? Or do you think that single player is alive and well, and will remain so for the rest of time? With Horizon: Zero Dawn, Dark Souls 3 and Far Cry Primal soon to be released, with either single player-focus or pure single player, it certainly shows that they aren’t quite dead yet. But how long will it last, and could we eventually see the end of single player?