The Evolving Market of the Game Industry

My fondest memories as a child were playing Nintendo 64 ,PlayStation 2, and GameCube. That experience of getting a new game for Christmas knowing that it was just for me is unforgettable. Growing up with mainly single player games — other than Halo LAN parties — is the reason I love gaming so much. Sadly, in the last couple of years, I and many others have noticed a trend of slowly moving away from those types of experiences. That’s not to say they will completely disappear but the multiplayer focused games are shifting the market at an alarming rate. What’s causing this? There’s a couple reasons we’ll take a look at to better understand the current climate gamers are in and why it may not bode well for the future.

For some of us, the gaming world is our escape from the harsh realities of everyday life, and we religiously play all the games for all the systems. What console war? Yet, there is a vast majority of casual gamers. These are the gamers that pick up the occasional multiplayer game such as Call of Duty or PUBG because they’re easy to learn and usually don’t require much skill. I say that loosely realizing there are people who play such games at a higher level and are gods at them. Unfortunately, this demographic is seemingly dominating the market as game companies realize people will throw money at anything. Instead of a fulfilling DLC for the story, games will have a season pass and add content regularly that isn’t anything of real substance. So instead of that plot hole they could’ve filled with a backstory it’s, “here have this horse head for $5 or this new weapon skin”.

Of course, investing time to make add ons for single player games solely focusing on story is a gamble. Go to where the money is right? It’s understandable from a business standpoint. On the same side of that coin, companies could then feel pressured to add in multiplayer where there shouldn’t have been any in the first place. Luckily, Sony has been pumping out AAA, narrative driven games like nobodies business. Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last of Us, and most recently God of War have satisfied my need for substance. AAA titles are gonna be few and far between if done right which is how it should be. Quality over quantity.

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One facet of the game industry that keeps the single player dream alive is the indie developer community. Either for monetary reasons or because the game was made to tell a specific story, the focus is often on the single player experience and what the player can learn from it, if anything. Games such as Oxenfree, Inside, and Celeste just to name a few. This corner of the games industry is the reason I still have hope for the community.

One of the main reasons I’m concerned is that with future AAA titles, it will be harder on my soul to pay $60 for a game that has a 15 hour campaign plus another $20 for whatever map packs or DLC content there is for multiplayer. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, I have NO problems with multiplayer focused games because they provide their own experience. Having a campaign and a multiplayer that play off of each other works really well like it did with the Halo franchise. With the exception of Halo 5…which we won’t get into.

There has to be a healthy balance without one infringing upon the other. The first Red Dead Redemption had online capabilities, yes. But that didn’t distract from the story as they were two separate entities. We can only hope for the same with its sequel as I don’t want to be immersed in a story mission and then get killed by some troll. This is a very specific example but I just wanted to give context.

Ever since EA gutted Visceral Games and killed the single player Star Wars game they were working on, companies have started to follow suit in thinking that in order to make a great game, the multiplayer has to be the focus. This came to mind as a recent example of a company making smart business choices, just maybe not the best choices for their consumers. Patrick Soderlund, the Executive Vice President at EA, had this to say about the redirection for the game.

Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players … It has become clear that, to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design

So, what do you think? At the end of the day we’re all gamers and we’re going to play the games anyway because we can’t help ourselves. I can only speak for myself and maybe a few other like minded people in that it would be a tragedy to see single player games go extinct but I highly doubt they will. Of course I couldn’t discuss all the games as there are exceptions and anomalies, but hopefully this helped bring some insight. What negative effects do you see from companies exploiting the multiplayer scene for money? Positive? Feel free to message me with your thoughts, or just to tell me I suck. No worries. It’s cool. Anyway, until next time!