Destiny: Proof That Online Gaming Has Impacted Solo Gaming
Before you immediately leap to the defense of single-player games, saying they'll "always be around," consider the biggest titles in existence.
Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and the newly released Destiny are on that list, as are several other IPs - some MMOs, some that thrive on the multiplayer component despite offering a campaign option - and this isn't debatable. Multiplayer generates far more revenue than any single-player video game and for obvious reasons. Ongoing experiences that require subscription plans and/or offer microtransactions will always outstrip the play-once-and-done formula.
So, from the business side, it's inevitable that we'll see more and more games that focus almost entirely on multiplayer. And while there remains a vocal contingent that supports solo gaming (I'm a member of that group), we're well aware of the continuing trend. You'd have to be blind otherwise.
Will single-player-only experiences be banished to the low-budget indie realm?
Think about it: If a game requires so many millions to produce, it will require so many millions to make money. The easiest method of ensuring a return on your investment is to include a multiplayer component that hooks players for months, even years. There's no denying that those who indulge in multiplayer in MMOs or online gaming like CoD or Destiny play more hours than the average gamer. They almost have to if they wish to progress. Plus, the so-called "social" movement of playing games together has reached a fever pitch; many don't even bother with campaigns anymore.
So, if a publisher isn't going to drag in a huge amount of cash with a campaign-only experience, they're less and less likely to back it. Sure, we've still got great franchises that thrive on single-player; Naughty Dog is a perfect example of a studio that does an amazing job in this capacity. Uncharted and The Last Of Us were incredible, groundbreaking IPs that, while offering multiplayer, obviously centered on the single-player adventure. But such experiences are dwindling in number.
Single-player will only survive if it's BIG
And when I say "big," I'm talking about the world. Grand Theft Auto V was massive because it was massive; because gamers could easily spend 50, 60 even 100 hours in that wonderfully immersive world. The same will be true of upcoming games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Batman: Arkham Knight and Assassin's Creed Unity. The bottom line is that if you want to sell a single-player adventure these days, it has to provide the player with a huge amount of play time. The days of selling a game that will deliver 8-10 hours (which was once acceptable) are gone.
Can you even name an upcoming title, other than Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, that will essentially offer a standard-length campaign and little else? Yes, of course, such games do include multiplayer but almost nobody buys them for that reason. On the flip side, almost nobody buys a new Call of Duty for the campaign, either, and guess which makes far more money? And you can't even enjoy Destiny unless you're connected.
There are two types of games in the future: Those that focus entirely on revenue-generating multiplayer, and those that focus on gargantuan virtual worlds where one player can spend 100+ hours.
That's the long and short of it.